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Veterans irked by placement of rabbit sculpture on Dedham common

Posted by Natalie Feulner  June 13, 2012 05:31 PM

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The rabbit in Dedham's Oakdale Common. Courtesy of the Oakdale Square Alliance

Whether a 5-foot fiberglass rabbit will stay uncovered at Oakdale Common during Dedham's Flag Day parade on Thursday remains to be seen, following a complaint by local veterans who say the sculpture compromises the intent of the space that also holds a dedication to those in the armed services.

The controversy, which erupted soon after the rabbit was placed in the park over the weekend, has polarized two prominent groups in town -- the Dedham Public Art Project and the Combined Veterans Council.

Francis O'Brien, a Norfolk County commissioner, veteran, and liaison for the veterans council, has asked Dedham's Parks and Recreation Department to have the bunny removed from the site permanently and in the meantime covered before the Flag Day parade. But members of the art project said no one expressing opposition to the rabbit has contacted them directly.

O’Brien said that typically the veterans give a gun salute at the common during the parade. But they will not do so if the rabbit is there or left uncovered, he said.

“It would be extremely inconsiderate to give a salute with the rabbit sitting there,” he said. “Ultimately, we hope that the vote to put it there in the first place is rescinded, but in the meantime we want it covered.”

Both groups are expected to meet with Town Administrator Bill Keegan and the Parks and Recreation Department in a private meeting Thursday morning to discuss the issue, parks director Robert Stanley said Wednesday.

Stephanie Radner, chairwoman of the Oakdale Square Alliance and a member of the art project, said the group’s decision to place the sculpture in the park was a good-hearted one and went through the proper channels.

She said the funding for the sculpture was anonymously donated in memory of longtime Oakdale resident and veteran Joe Pagliuca, who died earlier this year.

The donor asked that the sculpture be placed somewhere in Oakdale. After evaluating sites such as the library and Oakdale School, the decision was made to put the rabbit on the common, she said.

The rabbit is mostly white, with green eyes. It was created by Oakdale-based artists Jill Barry and Mike Glowacki, who is also a veteran.

Stanley said the members of the art project met with members of the Veterans Monument Committee, who gave the go-ahead to the Parks and Recreation Commission to approve the placement. However, the town’s other veterans groups were not notified, and he said that’s where there was an issue.

“We’ve always asked groups [interested in using the common] to check with the Veterans Monument Committee, and we typically go with what they say,” Stanley said. “However, some veterans have since seen it and have protested it, asking that the bunny be removed.”

Radner said that if the group is asked to remove or cover the rabbit by the town, it will do so. However, she said it raises an important question about the use of open space in the town.

“We don’t have the luxury of putting public art in a lot of places,” she said. “Why is it called a common if it’s not a common space?”

Natalie Feulner can be reached at natalie.feulner@gmail.com.

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