Nikola Tesla sculpture to Remain in State Park

by James Hufnagel

Even though the Niagara Falls City Council, the Niagara County Legislature and the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area board all passed unanimous resolutions requesting that the famous sculpture of inventor Nikola Tesla be gifted to the city of Niagara Falls and installed at a place of honor in the city, the actual location of his accomplishments, State Parks last week announced that work has begun to relocate the statue to Stedman’s Bluff, at the brink of the falls, in the Niagara Falls State Park.

Had the Tesla sculpture been ceremoniously turned over to the city of Niagara Falls, it would have made international headlines. What a sad outcome.

State Parks’ press release read in part as follows: “The methodical and multi-step process… will provide the monument honoring the famed inventor a one-of-a-kind view overlooking the American Falls at Stedman’s Bluff. The tribute to Mr. Tesla… will serve as a principal focus in the prominent, inspirational and redesigned Stedman’s Bluff setting with views of the American Falls, Luna Island, Prospect Point and the Niagara River… Attention to the monument includes freeing the statue from its concrete base, installation of new supports, special care and cleaning and the reestablishment at Stedman’s Bluff. Once repositioned within the park, the statute will become more accessible for all visitors with seating along the base perfect for photographs and reflection.”

“The work is expected to be finished in June as part of a $70 million revitalization at the state park.”

Actually, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is spending $50 million, not, as the press release asserts, $70 million, to “revitalize” his Niagara Falls State Park. Apparently for the sake of simplicity, State Parks lumped in the $20 million spent to “revitalize” the south Robert Moses Parkway.

In addition, the base of the sculpture is black granite, not concrete as the press release says.

The reason the city lost out on an opportunity to obtain the Tesla sculpture, which is estimated to have a value in the hundreds of thousands, is because Mayor Dyster fought the initiative from the start. Dyster morphed the original proposal from siting the sculpture at a secure location anywhere within the city, to installing the sculpture on Buffalo Avenue contingent on establishment of a museum there, at the original 1890’s Tesla generating station, another pie-in-the-sky project like the Niagara Experience Center, Aquafalls and Oz. The fact is, Dyster’s “big money” masters, Cuomo, State Parks, Maid of the Mist and Delaware North, in the final analysis, don’t really want competing attractions in the city.

Besides, the Mayor already had in mind a masterpiece, a timeless work of art, the Boundary Waters sculpture, for an unveiling downtown. Like some kind of Renaissance art patron commissioning a tribute to himself, Dyster enlisted the services of an out-of-town “artist” to create a lasting memorial to his greatness. The difference between Dyster and the medieval aristocracy however, is that they actually paid for their vanity themselves. Dyster is spending $435,000 of OPM (other people’s money) including the city’s $50,000 contribution, to commemorate his leadership for future generations. Assuming it’s not hauled off for scrap the day after Dyster leaves office, that is.

A former administrator of Niagara University’s Castellani Art Museum, Kim James Yarwood of Grand Island, rendered his expert opinion on the fate of the Tesla sculpture as a comment left on the Buffalo News web site (edited for clarity):

“In 1975, the federal government, not our state government or local politicians or Parks administrators, was offered a wonderful bicentennial gift from the Yugoslavian (now Serbian) government to honor their native born Tesla and his contributions. The sculpture was intended at first to be located within the city of Niagara Falls, but for security reasons was placed in front of the Powerhouse Arch on Goat Island.

“This sculpture of Nikola Tesla is the second casting of three identical works created by the famous East European/Croatian sculptor Frano Krsinic. This monumental sculpture is considered one of Krsinic’s masterworks, among others displayed in major museums around the world, and is honored by tens of thousands of Tesla admirers as the greatest work of fine art made in Tesla’s image & name. Probably worth millions!

“To think that a handful of Parks administrators, sitting in their little office, have any right to displace this sculpture on a whim, sending it to a hidden bushy berm called Stedman’s Bluff, is a thoughtless insult to both the Serbian Government, the artist Frano Krsinic and to Tesla himself.

“To make things worse, this masterpiece will be removed from its well-designed granite pedestal and then bolted down to a landscaping rock like a common garden Gnome and as a plaything for tourists. The sculpture is already damaged from millions of photo-shooting folks with no interest in Tesla!

“Thousands of dollars were allocated for its restoration, where did that money go? Cleaning is not restoration! The destruction of the sculpture’s artist-designed pedestal should create a lawsuit in itself!

“Ask yourself, what connection does this sculpture have to the Stedman family and their bluff… NONE? And why didn’t the planners include this sculpture in their original design for renovating Goat Island?

“Maybe the Serbian government should step in and take their bicentennial gift back and give it to some deserving place…”

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