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Zappa Bust Heads to Baltimore?

Vilnius was declared a European Capital of Culture for 2009. Of course this Baltic state is rich in heritage, history and old buildings, but it is modern as well – a new Guggenheim museum will open here in 2011 … and then there is that famous Frank Zappa statue.

In 1995, the Frank Zappa Fan Club erected the Zappa statue in Vilnius, and since then tourists, backpackers, and locals alike have flocked to the unusual statue. The bust of Frank Zappa’s head has attracted interest especially since the connection of Vilnius to Zappa was never clear.

A member of the fan club, Vytautas Kernagis told Rolling Stone in 2002: “We never saw Zappa, but nobody ever saw God, and they still go to church.” In May 2008, The Lithuanian Zappa Fan Club headed to the United States to Zappa’s place of birth, Baltimore, Maryland. Baltimore celebrates its son annually on “Frank Zappa Day.” (August 9).

During the visit, Saulius Paukstys, president of the Zappa fan club, offered a gift to the people of Baltimore- a bronze replica of the Vilnius Zappa bust. It stands at an impressive 15 feet tall and is valued at 50,000 dollars. The Baltimore Public Art Commission has accepted the gift, but now a year and a half later, has still not decided where to put it.

A location in the Fells Point section of the city was originally named, but then retracted as it didn’t seem to offer space for visitors. The reaction from Baltimore was closely followed, because the city has a unique history of deciding what art is appropriate. The Baltimore Sun reported a local restaurant owner was forced to take down a sculpture of a pink flamingo when the city said it would be necessary to pay a “minor privilege permit” of 800 dollars to continue to display it on the building.

Flamingo frenzy resulted, and local businesses claimed the art made the neighborhood unique. And so the Zappa statue is at the mercy of the same city, which imposed a tax on a business owner’s pink flamingo. As time passes, fans are growing worried it might not be erected at all, and Lithuanians watch with interest. To quote the great Zappa, “What’s new in Baltimore? Better go and find out”