She Built NYC launches as city seeks to commission public art for women’s history

First lady Chirlane McCray announced the city is seeking ideas of women worth honoring with a memorial or another work of public art. Photo Credit: Abigail Weinberg

90% of statues and monuments in the city pay tribute to men, the deputy mayor for housing and economic development says.

First lady Chirlane McCray announced the city is seeking ideas of women worth honoring with a memorial or another work of  public art.
First lady Chirlane McCray announced the city is seeking ideas of women worth honoring with a memorial or another work of public art. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

“Fearless Girl” may soon have a sister.

As part of its She Built NYC initiative, the city is seeking nominations for women who played a prominent role in New York City history, who may be honored with a monument or another work of public art, first lady Chirlane McCray announced Wednesday.

“Public monuments should not make us question our worth. They should accurately represent our history and inspire us to realize our potential,” McCray said. “There are already so many forces at work in our society telling girls and women that we are not important.”

Currently, 90 percent of such statues in the city pay tribute to men, according to Alicia Glen, the city’s deputy mayor for housing and economic development.

“This is a day we finally start putting women where they belong — on pedestals,” Glen said.

About 20 people gathered in Bryant Park to support the city’s plans — and some came with suggestions. Actress Condola Rashad said she planned to nominate Audre Lorde, a state poet laureate known for her feminist and civil rights work. The Girl Scout Leadership Institute members said they would suggest Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of Girl Scouts. Both figures are deceased.

Funding for the project will come out of the up to $10 million the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs previously set aside for monuments that celebrate a more diverse group of New Yorkers.

The city is open to honoring a woman, a group of women or an event involving women, all of which must have a significant connection to the city. Events must have occured at least 20 years ago. Specific figures must be dead and known for achievements that occurred at least two decades ago. Groups of women — such as single mothers or domestic workers — do not need to be associated with any specific period of time.

The public can nominate women at https://women.nyc/ through Aug. 1.

This fall, an advisory panel will look through submissions and create a list of nominees. The city’s Department of Cultural Affairs will ultimately select which woman, group or event to commission artwork about, and which artist is tapped to create the piece.

Plans for the new monument, including its location, will be announced in January.

Abigail Weinberg