Lexington's Urban-County Arts Review Board will study the placement and text associated with the downtown statues of John Hunt Morgan and John C. Breckinridge, as well as a historical marker in Cheapside Park that provides information about slavery.
Mayor Jim Gray announced that he was calling for the review at a forum on race, Lexington's history with slavery and the city's Confederate statues Tuesday night at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning.
"It is time to reconsider our Confederate memorials," Gray told an overflow crowd.
He said he thinks public monuments "should at a very basic level pay tribute to our shared values."
"We are aware of no monuments or memorials to Union soldiers in Lexington, and that needs to be examined," Gray said.
The Urban-County Arts Review Board, established in 2004, reviews proposals for visual artwork in public spaces.
Gray said the board will consult artists, historians and civil-rights leaders about the statues and the marker, and a town hall-style meeting will be held to gather input from the general public.
The board will report back to Gray and the Urban County Council, but a timeline for that is still being developed.
Opinions among those in attendance were split over whether the statues should be moved off their places of prominence on the old courthouse lawn.
Art Shechet, one of three people who sat on a panel that discussed the statues, pointed out the city is about to spend millions of dollars renovating the courthouse.
"I think part of that is removing those statues," he said.
Cheapside was "one of the ground zeroes of the American slave trade," and Shechet said the suffering that was endured there make it "a sacred space."
"It is crucial to tell that story and connect it to our history and our present," he said.
The nearby Morgan and Breckinridge statues, he said, were erected as part of "a reconstruction of history with a gauzy film placed over what that history was about."
Breckinridge's statue was placed in 1887. The Morgan statue was placed on the courthouse lawn in 1911 at the behest of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. State taxpayers subsidized the cost of both.
Yvonne Giles, who has studied black history in Lexington extensively and also sat on the panel, said moving the statues "is not part of the question for me anymore."
She said money could be better spent on constructing a monument that reflects the contributions and accomplishments of blacks in Lexington.
"If there is a Confederate monument, balance it," she said, both racially and with respect to gender.
She suggested hiring Ed Hamilton of Louisville, who sculpted the African American Civil War Memorial in Washington, D.C., to create a concept monument.
"Create a monument that represents who we are," she said. "And put it between the two guys."
Thomas Manuel, who spoke during the public comment portion of the forum, said he liked Giles' idea and doesn't want to see the statues taken away.
"Don't remove history," he said. "Once you do that, you've started a bad precedent for censorship."