La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat held a private meeting on Wednesday morning at City Hall.
The reason for the meeting was to bring key players involved in the Hiawatha Statue debate to the table in order to discuss the statue's future. The discussion lasted nearly an hour and half.
A small group of people gathered around the table in Mayor Kabat's Conference Room: representatives from the Ho-Chunk Nation, the family of Hiawatha Statue artist and creator, Anthony Zimmerhakl, local historians, and city council members.
Each individual brought unique perspectives and opinions about the statue to the meeting. Through the agreements and disagreements, those at the meeting say they were able to avoid debate. instead, they had what they call a constructive meeting that will hopefully lead to the best plan of action in the future.
"This is an issue that continues to divide our community," said Kabat. "I think we really need to find solutions."
"It was a really very good, informative, educational meeting and conversation that we had," said District 7 Council Member Gary Padesky.
The meeting was a time for people both in support and in opposition of the statue to share openly.
"Any type of art elicits emotions and feelings and those can be good and bad depending on the person and what their understanding is," said Kristin White Eagle, District 2 Representative for the Ho-Chunk Nation Legislature.
"I think art should be around for a long time," said Steve Kiedrowski, artist and family friend of the Zimmerhakls. "It's not something you just think, 'Well, 20 years later I don't like how it looks, so lets tear it down' That's not the purpose of art."
This is not the first time city officials have debated Hiawatha's future.
"I was on the committee in 2000 appointed by then-Mayor John Medinger to figure out at that time what we were going to do with the statue," Kiedrowski said.
That committee decided to keep the statue at Riverside Park.
Regardless of what comes from this conversation nearly two decades later, everyone in the Wednesday morning meeting left with hope.
"I think if we all kind of work together and dovetail all of our information and our ideas together, we can make this statue even better for the future of La Crosse," Kiedrowski said.
There are three possible outcomes for the Hiawatha Statue. It could remain in Riverside Park, move to a new location, or be removed altogether.
No decisions were made at the Wednesday meeting.
Padesky says he hopes that whatever option is chosen will bring an element of education to the public and those on both sides of the debate.
Another private meeting with the same group of people has already been set.