New York City is pushing with a piece of art to celebrate the abolitionist movement that some detractors consider too abstract in a city where so few monuments honor black people with works. figurative sculpture.
The city’s plan, designed by artist Kameelah Janan Rasheed, integrates messages of social justice into the benches and contours of a new $15 million park in Brooklyn called Abolitionist Place.
This location is on a corner of Downtown Brooklyn adjacent to 227 Duffield Street, which received mold condition last year because of its connection with anti-slavery advocates of the 1800s.
The city’s Public Design Commission said it discussed the design plan last January, after a group of conservationists and activists said they thought the plan should feature the monument. of the abolitionists. But in September, the city said it was moving forward with the design, making legal challenge was filed this month by critics, who asked a judge to review the city’s approval process.
“We are very disappointed,” said Jacob Morris, a historian who is challenging the decision of the Public Design Commission, which considers all permanent monuments on city property. He said the agency violated its own rules by refusing to hear more public testimony before voting through the concept for the $689,000 project during a meeting in September.
“This is our last resort,” Morris added.
For several years, Morris and others worked on erecting a figurative sculpture called “Sisters in Freedom” in the same location in Downtown Brooklyn. It will honor historically significant black women like investigative journalist Ida B. Wells and educator and abolitionist Sarah J. Garnet.
As president of the Brooklyn borough, New York City Mayor Eric Adams supported the traditional monument construction Morris wanted to see. In 2019, Adams wrote a letter to city officials saying the artwork would “elevate these wonderful, empowered women even further in our awareness.”
The mayor’s spokesman, Amaris Cockfield, did not respond to questions about his position in deciding to launch a more abstract attempt at Abolitionist Place.
City officials say plans to install Rasheed are far from final and announced that the artist will begin hosting online community sessions this week to hear thoughts on the design. her design. Additionally, the Public Design Commission said it will continue to review the design and seek public input.
“We plan to have another public hearing on this matter when it returns for preliminary review,” Keri Butler, the agency’s chief executive, said by email.
An expert on the city’s public design approval process said she thinks the legal challenge to the commission’s approval last fall faced an uphill battle.
Michele H. Bogart, an art historian specializing in the city’s public works, said a legal challenge to return the monument to the public “seems a bit extreme”. “He’s trying to force them to change the way they operate, to make room for more public comment.”
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Shawné Lee, whose family fought for preserve the neighborhood’s abolitionist history, supports the lawsuit. “I would like to see the Public Design Committee change their process and become more inclusive,” she said. “Art is a form of expression, but will you allow us to express our concerns?”
The park where abolitionist artworks will be showcased by the city’s economic development agency and the design has been approved by the Department of Culture.
Rasheed, a former public school teacher with a text-based banner decorated façade of the Brooklyn Museum, sketched a design that includes a stand-alone sculpture, mosaic reliefs and messages of social justice spread throughout the park.
Kendal Henry, assistant commissioner of public arts for the city’s culture department, described the artist’s vision as “deeply rooted in collaboration”.
“We welcome the input of everyone of good will who wants to work with their neighbors to create a monument,” Henry added in a statement.
Earlier this week, Rasheed, in one of her online sessions, addressed the public and explained that community input will determine many of the core elements of her installation, such as such as text. “We can only do this if we can respect each other,” she said.
She then sent The New York Times a statement in which she said, “I wanted to focus on creating something that invites conversation, rather than stating historical facts.”
She said Morris and others misrepresented her work.
The questions and texts that will be used in the piece, Rasheed said, are “designed to spark discussion. “And I’m glad this project is not and never will be the only one addressing the abolition problem in Brooklyn.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/28/arts/design/abolitionist-place-design-brooklyn-moves-forward.html Art design for Brooklyn abolitionist site moving forward