Though New York City has no shortage of statuary and triumphal monuments, very few of them are dedicated to the accomplishments of real-life, trailblazing women. A new campaign, She Built NYC, is seeking to change that by adding five new sculptures, one in each of the five boroughs, that honor legendary ladies of New York. The first of those statues will be erected in Prospect Park and dedicated to the legacy of Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman to serve in Congress and the first woman and African American to seek the nomination for president of the United States from one of the two major political parties. As a fitting end to Women’s History Month, the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs Percent for Art announced five finalist proposals for the monument and the Prospect Park Alliance announced a call for feedback from the community to help decide “which artist’s vision best honors the late congresswoman’s contributions to Brooklyn and beyond.”
Shirley Chisholm has strong ties to Brooklyn, as it is where she was born, raised, educated and where her constituents lived. As a congresswoman, Chisholm represented the 12th Congressional District which included central Brooklyn neighborhoods like Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights. It was also in Brooklyn, on Bedford Avenue in Crown Heights, where Chisholm based the headquarters of her campaign.
Each of the five proposals for the Shirley Chisholm statue interpret and express her legacy in a unique way. The finalists artists are Tanda Francis, La Vaughn Belle, Mickalene Thomas, Firelei Báez, and Amanda Williams and Olalekan Jeyifous. Each design varies from the others by employing different materials, colors, shapes and sizes. The monument is anticipated to be completed by the end of 2020.
Now through Sunday, March 31, New Yorkers are encouraged to share their thoughts about each proposal through a feedback form. You can read each artists’ statement and leave your thoughts at this link.
The She Built NYC project started in the summer of 2018 when public nominations were collected. The other women who will be honored with statues are Billie Holiday (Queens), Elizabeth Jennings Graham (Manhattan), Dr. Helen Rodriguez Trías (Bronx), and Katherine Walker (Staten Island).