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Discussion over Arkansas abortion monument continues

Lakey Goff presented this artistic rendering of the proposed monument, with flower boxes on both sides.
Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission
Artist Lakey Goff's drawing of the living wall serving as a "monument to the unborn" at the Arkansas State Capitol.

Uncertainty continued Tuesday over a proposed “monument to the unborn” at the Arkansas State Capitol.

Members of the Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission expressed frustration with artist Lakey Goff, who’s been chosen to design the monument. Goff wants the monument to be a living wall, with growing plants and waterfall noises. In the past, commission members have said the design could be too expensive, difficult to maintain and may not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Members of the commission on Tuesday sparred with Goff after she submitted a design in a different location than the Secretary of State's office requested.

At last month's meeting, the group decided to put the monument behind an existing cooling tower near a parking lot. The board estimated that the total cost of the project could be over $60,000. This would include lighting and security cameras needed for the monument.

Goff wants the monument to be closer to the State Capitol building, near the Eternal Flame of Freedom, which commemorates the founding of the American Legion. She drafted plans for that part of the Capitol grounds, instead of the location by the cooling tower as the group selected. A board member estimated this could cost over $200,000.

By law, the monument must be paid for with private funds. Goff wants the living wall to be closer to the Capitol because she believes the building by the cooling tower is “not appropriate" because of a lack of natural light.

“That building is not even an option for growing plants, nor is it an option to honor the unborn,” she said.

Goff said money is not an issue because the wall is funded by private donors, and accused members of the commission of having a “lack mentality.” There is not yet an organized movement to raise money for the wall, though there is a website to collect donations. Goff says the funding is certain to come, but is unclear on the specifics.

Commission member Beth Gipe pushed back on Goff during the meeting.

“We chose a design, not an artist,” she said.

Landscape architect Dave Roberts said the construction project is currently skipping steps.

“How is this constructed?" he asked. “You have to have a construction document in order to get pricing. You can't just go from construction to pricing without having a landscape architect drawing.”

The commission decided to look at the location closer to the Capitol as a possibility for the final monument.

Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.