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Mayor Chris Beutler decided not to purchase a train sculpture for the West Haymarket area because of the controversy surrounding the artist.

Beutler said he didn't want the controversy over artist Tom Otterness to create a division in the community about the West Haymarket projects.

The three-member group overseeing construction and financing of West Haymarket projects was set to approve a $500,000 contract for artwork from Otterness at a meeting Friday afternoon.

On Friday morning, Lincoln residents began calling Beutler's office after learning that the artist, in 1977, had shot his dog and filmed the shooting, calling it "Shot Dog Film."

Pinnacle Bank Arena and development of the West Haymarket area has "unified our community as it has never been unified before. It is very important to me to keep that momentum alive," Beutler said as he explained why the city would not be purchasing the artwork: a bronze train sculpture called "Train Set."

"I do not want the choice of this artist to create bad feelings," Beutler said at the West Haymarket Joint Public Agency meeting Friday.

University of Nebraska Regent Tim Clare, a member of the JPA, said he respected the decision to withdraw the artwork. "The opinion and perception of the community is extremely important for us."

Otterness had submitted the idea of a bronze sculpture of a train for consideration by a committee looking for art for Pinnacle Bank Arena.

The sculpture would have been placed in the plaza of a new office building being built in the West Haymarket area and would have been purchased with tax-increment financing funds and money earmarked for arena artwork.

"Art plays an important role in our society. It is often intended to provoke thought and reaction, stimulate discussion and expand our humanity," Beutler said.

"But the artist's past behavior in this instance has created a level of division in the community that is simply not acceptable.

"Our feeling is that it is in the best interest of the city to discontinue the contract process," Beutler said.

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Reach Nancy Hicks at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com.

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Reporter

Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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