Wu Announces Grant for Public Art Programming

Special to the Patriot-Bridge

Mayor Michelle Wu and the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture (MOAC) announced that MOAC has recently been awarded $3 million in funding from The Monuments Project at the Mellon Foundation for the city’s proposal: Un-monument | Re-monument | De-monument: Transforming Boston. With this grant, MOAC will invite temporary art installations and create free programming to reflect upon, process, and contextualize monuments in Boston and the narratives they create.

“The Monuments Project allows us to make a historic investment in education and dialogue,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “Exploring Boston’s public spaces by engaging with our monuments will create new opportunities for bolstering civic engagement, community conversation and resident creativity.”

“Through the monuments and memorials that mark them, our civic spaces are where many of us first learn about the American Story,” said Elizabeth Alexander, President of the Mellon Foundation. “These grants strengthen new possibilities for commemoration in American cities so we can better understand that story and the history that informs it, and so we can celebrate the collective achievements and extraordinary acts these new monuments and memorials will honor in civic spaces across the country.”

Boston’s programming through The Monuments Project will engage the community through activations including:

•  Monument-related temporary public art installations through commissions from the City’s Transformative Public Art program with five additional community curatorial collaborators:  Emerson Contemporary, Pao, Museum of NCAAA, NAICOB, and Now+There;

• Accessible text, audio, video artwork interpretation and public programming (e.g., library reading groups or summer reading for the city) with MassArt and Harvard; 

• Public conversations at The Embrace curated by Hutchins Center; and

• Intergenerational public dinners held at BIPOC/ALANA owned businesses.

“The Mayor’s Office of Arts & Culture will be able to offer programs and new artworks for residents to engage in conversation about monuments, public memory, and our daily lives,” said Kara Elliott-Ortega, Chief of Arts & Culture. “Our hope is that through community-led dialogue we can expand and deepen the Boston stories that shape our collective narrative.”

In recent years, the City of Boston has commissioned several important new long-term memorials such as The Embrace, Journey of My Soul: The Legacy of Frederick Douglass, and the Chinatown Workers Statue Project, and facilitated the removal of works such as the Christopher Columbus statue and Emancipation Group after broad community conversations.

With funding from The Monuments Project, MOAC will continue conversations spurred by these changes over the last six years while connecting diverse creative communities, expanding Boston’s leadership in public art nationally, and fostering a more engaged and reflective relationship between our city and its monument landscape.

“In a relatively short amount of time, the possibilities for the commemorative landscape in Boston have expanded significantly,” said Karin Goodfellow, Director of Public Art for the Mayor’s Office of Arts & Culture. “Through this grant, we will keep the conversation going in a public space and pivot from older, transactional approaches to commissioning and understanding public art to a dynamic, transformational approach centering on love, healing, and community.” 

Partnerships with community collaborators will bring together parties that haven’t often been able to collaborate in imaginative work in Boston. Through these partnerships, MOAC will facilitate nuanced dialogues across a variety of media that center community engagement.

The confirmed collaborators as of this announcement are:

• City of Boston Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture and Boston Art Commission

• Embrace Boston (represented by Elizabeth Tiblanc, Director of Programmatic Initiatives)

• Emerson Contemporary (represented by Foster Chair of Contemporary Art Dr. Leonie Bradbury)

• The Friends of the Public Garden (represented by Liz Vizza, Executive Director)

• The Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University (represented by Dr. Brandon Terry)

• Massachusetts College of Art and Design 

• Museum of the National Center for Afro-American Artists (NCAAA) (represented by Edmund Barry Gaither, Executive Director)

• North American Indian Center of Boston (NAICOB) (represented by Jean-Luc Pierite, President of the Board) 

• Now and There (represented by Kate Gilbert, Executive Director)

• Pao Arts Center at Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center (represented by Cynthia Woo, Director)

The City of Boston’s programming for The Monuments Project is envisioned as a two-year project. As a part of this process, MOAC will create a paid advisory group of thought leaders and community members from across the city to help direct community engagement, as well as hiring coordinators, consultants, and other staff to execute the project. 

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