Restored Bust of Christopher Columbus Unveiled at Italian American Club of Livonia

Sep 03, 2022 2741

BY: Sandra Tornberg

The newly restored bust of Christopher Columbus was unveiled at the Italian American Club of Livonia (IACL) on August 29, 2022. IACL President Frank Luscri welcomed invited guests, members of the Italian American community, in addition to special guests Italian Consul in Detroit Paola Allegra Baistrocchi, Mayor of Livonia Maureen Miller Brosnan, sculptor Sergio DeGiusti, and Italian architect Roberto Palomba.  

The founder of the newspaper La Tribuna Italiana del Michigan, Vincent Giuliani, began raising funds for a statue of Christopher Columbus in 1906. Italian sculptor Augusto Rivalta created the bust of Christopher Columbus. It was donated to the city of Detroit, dedicated in 1910 and placed at the northern end of Washington Boulevard at Park Avenue. In 1987 the bust was removed and restored, and in 1988 was rededicated at East Jefferson Avenue and Randolph Street.  

In recent years the statue had been attacked and defaced, being smeared with fake blood and receiving an axe to the head. In 2017, despite the efforts of the Italian American community, Detroit City Council renamed Columbus Day Indigenous Peoples Day and the fate of the statue was uncertain. In June of 2020, as the controversy continued and statues of Columbus were being destroyed in other cities, Mayor of Detroit Mike Duggan removed the statue and placed it in storage “to give us time to evaluate the appropriate long-term disposition of the statue”.

In July of 2020 a group of Italian American leaders started the process of determining how to obtain and preserve the statue, and the Italian American Art Preservation Foundation was formed. On January 13, 2022, Mayor Duggan issued a letter granting temporary custody of the bust to the Italian American Club of Livonia Charitable Foundation, who was responsible for relocating the bust and restoring the statue. The city of Detroit maintained responsibility for the restoration of the base. In the meantime, the Livonia Club Charitable Foundation had a new base created by John Minni and Primo Danti. Sculpture conservator Giorgio Gikas and sculptor Sergio DeGiusti restored the bust.

Sergio DeGiusti spoke about the history of the statue, the complex reasons for public art destruction, and the restoration process. Consul Baistrocchi cited three reasons that the statue was deemed necessary: the fact that Columbus had asked Queen Isabella if he could baptize the natives so they couldn’t be sold into slavery, the lynching of eleven Italian Americans in New Orleans in 1891, and the first Columbus Day Parade in 1909.

The Italian American community is grateful to the Italian American Club of Livonia for providing a secure home for the beautiful bust of Christopher Columbus. 

In the photo, left to right: IACL Charitable Foundation President Nino Ruggirello, IACL President Frank Luscri, Mayor Maureen Miller Brosnan, Italian Consul in Detroit Allegra Baistrocchi, IACL Charitable Foundation Treausurer Maria Capicchioni Harris.

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