Prospect-Lefferts

See the 5 final artist renderings for Shirley Chisholm’s Prospect Park monument

March 28, 2019 Scott Enman
Five final artist renderings for Shirley Chishom’s Prospect Park statute were announced on Wednesday, including this monument from Amanda Williams and Olalekan Jeyifous. Rendering courtesy of Women.NYC

You can now vote on five possible renderings for the planned statue of former Brooklyn U.S. Rep. Shirley Chisholm, coming to Prospect Park by the end of next year.

Chisholm’s statue will join a group of 150 monuments of historical figures across New York City — only five of which depict women.

Set on correcting a clear gender imbalance in the city’s public spaces, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen and First Lady Chirlane McCray teamed up with She Built NYC, a campaign formed in June that is commissioning statues of trailblazing women in each of the five boroughs.

In November, the city and the group announced that Chisholm’s statue would be erected at the Ocean Avenue entrance of Prospect Park.


“This is just the start.” — Faye Penn of She Built NYC


The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs Percent for Art program unveiled on Wednesday the five final artist renderings for the planned monument.

Now, a public feedback period begins, during which those interested can check out the designs and offer remarks. The winning artist will be selected in April.

“They’re really cool,” said Faye Penn, executive director of Women.NYC, the group behind She Built NYC. “Each artist brought a totally different idea to the table, and they’re really exciting and fun to see,” she told the Brooklyn Eagle.

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Tanda Francis’s sculpture features a bronze bust of Chisholm. Rendering courtesy of Women.NYC
Tanda Francis’s sculpture features a bronze bust of Chisholm. Rendering courtesy of Women.NYC

Chisholm grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant and became the first African-American woman elected to Albany. She was also the first woman elected to Congress, and in 1972, she became the first female to run for president in the Democratic Party and the first black woman to run in either party.

Her trademark slogan was, “Unbought and unbossed.”

The first artist proposal from sculptor Tanda Francis features a bronze bust of Chisholm with vertical water jets and lights.

“While many were beginning to organize the fight for America to live up to its promise that ‘all men are created equal,’ Shirley Chisholm’s trailblazing life promoted us to consider the equality of all humanity,” Francis said of her inspiration behind the project.

The second rendering, from artist La Vaughn Belle, reinterprets Chisholm’s famous quote, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” The exhibit features Chisholm in the middle of a star holding a folding chair with dozens of other folding chairs scattered behind her.

“[Chisholm] challenges us to think about how this petite black woman with a Bajan accent marking her immigrant roots could represent the promise of the United States both literally and symbolically and how her trail — to use her campaign slogan — could ‘bring U.S. together,’” Belle said.

This sculpture is by La Vaughn Belle. Rendering courtesy of Women.NYC
This sculpture is by La Vaughn Belle. Rendering courtesy of Women.NYC

The third idea, from Mickalene Thomas, features a life-size Chisholm sitting cross-legged on a car surrounded by planters, trees and benches.

“Prospect Park is known as Brooklyn’s Backyard,” Thomas said. “The sculpture that inspires me is one that reflects the breadth of Shirley Chisholm’s impact and also illustrates her as a woman who was deeply in touch with the people of the Brooklyn community.”

The plants surrounding the statue, according to Thomas, would be curated to honor Chisholm’s Caribbean heritage.

“By employing a nontraditional sculpture to depict a nontraditional force, the monument is meant to highlight the fortitude of both Shirley Chisholm and the people she represents,” Thomas added. “This is ultimately about the visibility of everyone in the community.”

The fourth idea, from Firelei Báez, features hand-painted metal columns that form three different images of Chisholm depending on where the viewer stands. The 10- to 15-foot sculpture took inspiration from the Nelson Mandela monument in Howick, South Africa.

This remembrance is by Mickalene Thomas. Rendering courtesy of Women.NYC
This remembrance is by Mickalene Thomas. Rendering courtesy of Women.NYC

“The three representations incorporate hand-painted imagery tied to inherited Afro-Diasporic narratives,” Báez said. “Two of the portraits liken Chisholm’s characteristics to those of Orishas, human embodiments of elemental spirits from the Yoruba tradition, while the third incorporates the Pan-African flag.

“When viewed aerially, the beams of Chisholm’s monument are arranged into the form of Sankofa, the West African symbol of a bird, which reaches back to move forward and construct our future.”

The final monument, from Amanda Williams and Olalekan Jeyifous, would feature Chisholm’s silhouette intertwined with the outline of the U.S. Capitol building.

“This mash up symbolizes how she disrupted the perception of who has the right to occupy such institutions and to be an embodiment for democracy,” the artists wrote.

Viewers can enter the monument — a nod to her leaving “the door open” for other women — and rest on rows reminiscent of the amphitheater-like congressional seating.

“Each seat pays homage to those who came after Ms. Chisholm as well as leaves room for those who have yet to come,” the artists said.

This statute from Firelei Báez took inspiration from the Nelson Mandela monument in Howick, South Africa. Rendering courtesy of Women.NYC
This statute from Firelei Báez took inspiration from the Nelson Mandela monument in Howick, South Africa. Rendering courtesy of Women.NYC

After the winner is chosen in April, the monument will be erected by the end of 2020.

Four other trailblazing women will also be receiving statutes in the other boroughs. They will depict women in the medical field, talented performers and musicians, avid activists, dedicated politicians, loyal civic servants — and devoted parents.

They include Billie Holiday in Queens, Elizabeth Jennings Graham in Manhattan, Dr. Helen Rodriguez Trías in the Bronx and Katherine Walker in Staten Island.

Penn praised these first five statutes as just the beginning, saying she hopes they’re a spark for many others to be memorialized in pathways, parks and plazas across the city.

“This is just the start,” she said. “It’s really exciting, but we’d love to see many more statues of women throughout New York City.”

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