A Monument to Shirley Chisholm
April 28, 2019 12:22 PM   Subscribe

The She Built NYC public arts program (part of the women.nyc initiative, and funded by the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs), launched in 2018 “to honor women who have shaped New York City while addressing the absence of female statues in our public spaces,” has chosenOur Destiny, Our Democracy,” the design from artists Amanda Williams and Olalekan Jeyifous, to honor trailblazing congresswoman Shirley "Unbought and Unbossed" Chisholm.

New York has five public art statues depicting individual, historical women: Joan of Arc, Golda Meir, Gertrude Stein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Harriet Tubman. (Some examples of non-individual/non-public representations: architectural sculptures on the I. Miller building's facade, depicting actresses Ethel Barrymore, Marilyn Miller, Mary Pickford and Rosa Ponselle in their then-signature roles, restored in Times Square in 2014; Bronx Community College's Hall of Fame for Great Americans contains busts of Susan B. Anthony, Maria Mitchell, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and other female historical figures; Hale House has a statue of Mother Clara Hale.)

Proposals for the Chisholm project
were announced last month.

The 40-foot-tall monument, melding the Brooklyn-born Chisholm's signature portrait, the silhouette of the U.S. Capitol building, and an ampitheatre-style community gathering space, is set to be installed in the southeast corner of Prospect Park in late 2020.

Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm (1924-2005), the first black woman to be elected to U.S. Congress, was both the first woman and the first African American to run for the nomination of a major party for President of the United States.

These monuments are commissioned through the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art program. Monuments to Billie Holiday (Queens), Elizabeth Jennings Graham (Manhattan), Dr. Helen Rodriguez-Trías (the Bronx), and Katherine Walker (Staten Island), selected from more than 2,000 nominations from the public, are in the works.

The congresswoman, previously.
posted by Iris Gambol (8 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I was in grade school in 1972, but grew up in a house where politics were routinely discussed at the dinner table—so I remember when Shirley Chisholm ran for president in ‘72. Being exposed to her trailblazing efforts back then definitely helped shape my attitude about “what girls can do”.
posted by bookmammal at 1:05 PM on April 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

I also remember Chisholm as an inspiration when I was 12, and I like this monument.
posted by acrasis at 1:46 PM on April 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

Thanks for a great post. Shirley Chisholm was the shit.
posted by aspersioncast at 2:56 PM on April 28, 2019

great design - i love how it throws a shadow-image portrait. but - that yellow hair, that's weird. yes, it can reference a golden crown or a halo, which would be a compliment i suppose. but Shirley Chisholm doesn't need that. yellow hair is a white woman's trait. a dark amber, or even green (which would work with the foliage design) would be better. i hope someone in the public makes that point during the finalization of the project.
posted by lapolla at 4:29 PM on April 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

by the way - i was 9 when she ran for president. i cut out her photo from the newspaper and pasted it on the brown-paper-bag cover i had made for my school civics textbook, and drew stars around it. i lived in a small, rural, conservative and heavily fundamentalist christian town in eastern California. and yes, it had a pretty racist population, as well. there were no black kids in my school - in any grade. the other kids in my class picked on me for it, the mildest comment i got was, "you know she can't win, don't you?" to which i replied that it was true, but she SHOULD win, if America really was a just and free country. that actually shut a lot of 'em up. i think this country would be a so much better place, if that dream had come true.
posted by lapolla at 4:43 PM on April 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

lapolla, you make excellent points. I thought most of the structure was meant to appear sun-dappled/dipped in gold to draw attention to her face, per the pics in the initial link; more full-screen details of the second, third, and fourth artists' renderings (via Gothamist).

I could be wildly off-base, and now I really wish I could see her hands in the pictures. But we're all members of the public -- anyone can contact the organization through the link at the bottom of this page.
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:16 PM on April 28, 2019

Great news, and well-deserved. About time.
posted by Capt. Renault at 5:17 PM on April 28, 2019

I love the look of it (though I was also thrown by the yellow hair), but mostly what I see when I look at it is how super climbable it looks -- I hope the plan either includes allowing kids to climb on it (as some of the best monuments do), or has a way to disallow it that doesn't make it less accessible overall.
posted by Mchelly at 7:08 AM on April 29, 2019

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