After watching over the patrons of a Homer eatery for several years, the statue of Brother Asaiah Bates has found a new home at the KBBI public radio station.
The statue needed a new location when the restaurant changed ownership, and now resides on the lawn of the radio station building on Kachemak Way.
Bates has been described as the closest thing Homer has to a patron saint. He served for a time on the Homer City Council, and was known for promoting understanding and cooperation, as well as coining Homer’s nickname as the Cosmic Hamlet by the Sea.
Bates died in 2000 at age 78.
The statue of his likeness was commissioned by John Nazarian, a member of the followers of the Fountain organization called the Barefooters, who settled in the Homer area in the late 1950s and ’60s. Nazarian now lives in California. Local artist Leo Vait created the bronze statue.
When the city couldn’t agree whether to allow the statue to be accepted into its art collection and placed at WKFL Park, which was donated to the city by Bates, the statue ended up at the Cosmic Kitchen restaurant on Pioneer Avenue.
When the restaurant sold last May, co-owner Michelle Wilson said she and co-owner Sean Hogan had been honored to be the statue’s caretakers for those years.
Enter Wayne Aderhold, a member of the KBBI board of directors. Aderhold spearheaded the effort to have the statue relocated to the public radio station and, after the rest of the board signed off, it was placed there earlier this month.
When he heard Cosmic Kitchen was selling and that the statue would need to move, Aderhold said he called KBBI to float the idea of having the statue placed in its front yard. After getting the OK from the Homer locals who represent Nazarian’s interests, Aderhold’s driveway became the temporary home for the statue until a structure could be built at the public radio station.
Bates was never associated with KBBI in an official capacity. Aderhold said he still sees good reasons for the statue to be there, including the fact that it’s positioned to face Homer City Hall, where Bates was a regular and served as a council member.
Bates was also a communicator and believed in the importance of getting along and promoting community conversations, Aderhold said, things that line up with the radio station’s mission.
The wooden protective structure for the statue was built by Nels Christiansen. Funding for the work of moving the statue and building the structure is technically coming from KBBI, but it will all be donated or fundraised, Aderhold said. Nothing will actually come out of KBBI’s bottom line, he said. Aderhold has put up some money himself, while Nazarian has promised funding to the project as well. The total project cost is looking to be about $10,000, Aderhold said.
The statue is still owned by Nazarian and is under the care and control of the radio station. It now stands off to the side of the main entrance under the protective cover. Aderhold said a circular bench will be added around the base of the statue, so that people can rest and sit right next to the Brother.
“It’ll be a place for contemplation and discussion,” he said of the installation.
Aderhold said the KBBI board did discuss the past controversy about where to put the statue, and decided that was in the past.
“I feel like he’s gone from couch surfing to having a home,” Aderhold said. “As far as I’m concerned, he will be here forever.”
Vait spoke to the idea of having a protective cover for the statue he created. The actual bronze is perfectly fine, but inclement weather can disrupt the strength and integrity of the base the statue sits on.
Vait feels like the statue’s landed in a good spot at KBBI, he said.