ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – A statue that’s been an oft-discussed topic and labeled “controversial” by some was approved by Abilene’s City Council to be placed in the Adamson-Spalding Storybook Garden soon.
The statue depicts a kitten cuddled up to a unicorn. That seems innocent enough, right? Well, these children’s book characters from have been a major topic of discussion throughout the Key City. This sculpture is based off characters in the Kitty-Corn book series. One book in particular, The Itty-Bitty Kitty-Corn, is about a kitten who wants to be a unicorn.
Two Visual Art Jury Meetings, where the jury decided to recommend the statue to city council, led to Thursday’s city council meeting. The final meeting regarding the Kitty-Corn statue gave residents the opportunity to share their thoughts one last time before a decision was made.
Those opposing the statue at Thursday’s meeting said the book encourages a transgender lifestyle, because the kitten wants to be – and even dresses like – a unicorn.
“Amazon affiliate sites like Shepherd Books, they all list this book as LGBTQ friendly and affirming. To put a statue up of this book aligns us with a cultural decision to adopt that book as affirming of gay and trans children,” spoke Christie Smith, an Abilene resident in opposition of the sculpture.
Those for the statue, like Adrain Vike, told councilmembers the book is about imagination and friendship. Vike quoted a letter the illustrator wrote to the Visual Arts Jury, “’Shannon Hale and I wrote this book out of a genuine love for each other as a reflection of the power of friendship. We had no intentions, designs, or motivations beyond this.’ I choose to believe the creators of these stories and their characters, and I hope the statue will continue as planned.”
This time, councilmembers were able to discuss their thoughts. Councilman Blaise Regan (Place 3) shared his opposition because of the controversy, saying he had received more feedback on this topic than anything else during his year on the council.
“In regards to books, controversy is good. I will step up to that plate and defend having controversial books in the adult book section every day of the week. Things that I don’t agree with, but I think the statues, especially in the story book gardens, are different,” Councilman Regan defended himself.
Regan continued to explain his belief that the statue was controversial because of an interview he found with the illustrator, which he claimed alludes to the book being about gender identity. Follow this link to find that interview.
However, in a letter written to the Visual Arts Jury, the illustrator detailed how the book is about friendship.
Councilman Regan was ultimately the only council member speaking against this statue.
“I just don’t see a transgender message in this book. I looked for it, and I just didn’t find it,” argued Councilman Lynn Beard (Place 2).
Councilman Shane Price spoke next about the importance of imagination in a child’s development, which is what he said the book encourages.
“We’ve had 23 in favor and six against. I think, in my opinion, the majority has spoken,” Councilman Kyle McAlister (Place 5) concluded.
After three meetings and many comments, the council decided to approve this statue being placed in Abilene’s Storybook Garden. The only member who voted against the statue was Councilman Regan.
Now, the Visual Arts Jury will continue to prepare for the 2024 Children’s Art and Literacy Festival, where the statue will officially be revealed.