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The lifesize “Sor Capanna” bronze of an Italian singer and folk hero by Harry Jackson is pictured in Rome. On loan to the City of Cody for five years, plans are to install it near the City Park band shell. (Courtesy Harry Jackson Institute)

Roman street singer and poet Sor Capanna was a hero to the poor people of Trastevere, Italy. He sang about his people and their history until his death in 1923.

Soon his statue will stand in a downtown Cody park, courtesy of one of the town’s late artists.

“Naturally, the Establishment hated him,” artist Harry Jackson writes in a narrative about the lifesized bronze he was commissioned to do in 1961. 

“He spent most of  his life in and out of jail.” 

Referencing the man who was both poet who sang his own verses and outlaw, Jackson likened the Roman as artist and cowboy, for whom “goin’ to jail is just one of the hazards of goin’ to town.”

Jackson kept studios in Cody and Italy. His artistic career spanned six decades, with work that covered a wide spectrum: From the early World War II Marine works he did as a combat artist to the abstract expressionist paintings featured in Life Magazine to his much celebrated western art.

He died in 2011 at age 87. 

Through efforts by the Cody Public Art Committee, “Sor Capanna” is now on loan to the City of Cody from the Harry Jackson Institute.

The 6-foot-tall bronze monument will stand near the City Park band shell. 

“It will be a nice addition to City Park for people to see and enjoy,” city attorney Scott Kolpitcke said at a recent city council meeting.

It is the city’s most recent piece to join outdoor public art displays in Cody. 

Others are T.D. Kelsey’s “High n’ Dry” sculpture in Bell Plaza on loan from the Buffalo Bill Center. Vic Payne’s “Born Under a Wandering Star” bronze bench now owned by the city has a permanent home on the sidewalk outside The Irma on Tuesday. 

Plans for official dedications are underway.

Contract assigns duties

Council members recently approved a contract to accept the statue for a five-year loan that expires September 2024. 

As borrower, the city is responsible for insuring the artwork for $20,000. If the market value goes up, the insurance coverage must likewise increase, according to the contract. 

The city is responsible for packaging and shipping costs and at the end of the loan term the city is to pay for all costs to return the artwork to the institute. 

Furthermore, the city agrees to care for the statute as it would care for any comparable property it owns, including the same precautions it takes to protect city park property from vandalism, fire, theft and mishandling, and in a way consistent with museum standards or as best it can. It does not, however, have to provide security guards, cameras or other security measures, the contract states. 

 The institute expects the city to maintain and preserve the bronze by cleaning it twice per year.

The contract says the institute assumes no liability for damages or injuries resulting from display of the work.

At the May 7 council meeting, art committee chair Cindy Katz said the committee had been working to obtain the sculpture for about one year. 

Jackson’s son Matt attended the council meeting. He provided background on the statute, saying when his father was in Rome, he met the owner of a restaurant in the Trastevere section. They would sing cowboy songs with a backup of Italian street musicians.

“(Sor Capanna) has been inside our building the last five years,” he said. “It’s great to have it outside again. It’s something I know he would love, and to have it next to the band shell would be great.”

Liability concern 

Councilman Glenn Nielson – though “not overly concerned” – expressed worry  the city would end up accepting more risk and cost than it should.

When the council appointed committee members by unanimous vote in February, one specified duty was to solicit donations and raise funds to pay for or offset costs and expenses of acquiring, installing and maintaining sculptures or other works of visual art. 

The committee has about $6,000 in the fund now, and Katz said members are fundraising and writing grants.

“Is the committee agreeable to have a deduction of $2,500 to cover risk?” Nielson asked Katz. “My concern is the city taking on the liability.”

“We do have insurance,” Katz said.

What if someone walks off with or damages the statue? he asked.

The city would be responsible, Katz said, adding the scenarios are unlikely. 

Councilors voted 6-0 in support of the loan agreement. Diane Ballard was absent.

War Dog accepted

By unanimous consent agenda vote May 21, the council accepted a War Dog Monument and inscribed paver blocks from the Wyoming Veterans Memorial Park Foundation.

The 1-foot-square granite paver blocks with cut lettering  are available from the foundation to honor veterans of all branches of service or to recognize personnnns, families or entities who wish to support the Wyoming Veterans Memorial Park.

According to the donation agreement, the foundation and city understand by accepting the gift, the city assumes all responsibility for its care, maintenance and repair.

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