It’s a sad sight to see — or not to see, as is more frequently the case. We’re talking here about the State House statue of John F. Kennedy, a likeness of the 35th president caught in midstep as he strides purposefully toward history. Once a much-visited attraction, the bronze sculpture by Isabel McIlvain has been fenced off from easy public viewing since the security crackdown that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Talking with tourists recently at the State House, a Globe editorialist found that though almost everyone, including visitors from Germany, the United Kingdom, and Brazil, knew of JFK, few were aware of the statue. Only two tourists of a dozen or more the Globe spoke with had plans of their own to visit the bronze rendering.
But escorted down the Beacon Street sidewalk to the closest viewing location, they gazed with interest on the Kennedy likeness, which sits there some 20 to 25 feet back on the other side of the stout, gate-locked metal fence, in not-so-splendid isolation on the State House’s West Lawn.
Which raises this question: Can’t the state find a better way to display the image of the last president elected from the Commonwealth, one who, almost 60 years after his death, is still a name recognized around the world?
Granted, Kennedy had been moved from the even more remote plaza near the West Lawn entrance. The West Lawn was once a peaceful meeting place, an oasis popular with bag-lunchers, but because it is adjacent to the governor’s office, it is no longer generally accessible to the public in this era of security worries. But McIlvain’s masterwork still remains out of the normal, well-traveled tourist trails.
Two spots suggest themselves as prime candidates for accessible relocation sites.
One is the corner of Beacon and Bowdoin streets, which is accessible any time the State House is open by a walkway from the General Hooker Entrance, the main way to access the building. The north side of that area holds a statue of Mary Dyer, a Quaker hanged for her persistent missionary work in Boston during an era when the Puritans had banned Quakerism in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and she herself had been banished.
Sadly, hers is not a memorial that draws particular attention. But with the Kennedy statue relocated to the other side of the small green space — and the addition of an arrowed sign at the beginning of the walkway — the area would become a regular visiting spot. There’s even a certain complementary logic to it: Kennedy had to overcome significant religious suspicion and bigotry to become the nation’s first Catholic president. That spot would carry the additional bonus of allowing for reasonably close viewing of the statue even when the gates to the Hooker Entrance are locked, since Kennedy’s likeness would be both close to and visible through the fence along Bowdoin Street.
One inside-the-building spot also suggests itself: The front of the Great Hall. Once an unattractive and unused outdoor courtyard whose only real function was to let light into the center of the building, that space was enclosed with the addition of clear or translucent roofing in Michael Dukakis’s third term. Its airy reaches are hung with flags from the 351 Massachusetts cities and towns, but it holds no public art at the ground level.
The Kennedy statue is the right size to fit well at the front of the hall. Getting it there would be a transportation task beyond the competence of an editorial kibitzer, but where there is a will, there is a way. And with eight glass doors leading into the spacious room, even if Kennedy drew crowds as part of a tour, those assemblages wouldn’t create a foot-traffic jam.
The authority to make changes such as this one lies with the Bureau of the State House, an office whose superintendent is jointly selected by subalterns of the Big Three: Governor Maura Healey, House Speaker Ronald Mariano, and Senate President Karen Spilka.
Now, there is little love — or even like — lost between the two legislative leaders. But perhaps with a little nudging from a consensus-and-results-oriented governor, they might agree on the logic of liberating and relocating the Kennedy statue to a place for all the visiting world to enjoy. Why, it could be the start of a New Frontier not just for the Kennedy likeness but for Spilka and Mariano as well.
Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us @GlobeOpinion.