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Shirley Chisholm monument designs: New Yorkers asked to give feedback

Five designs are in the running for a new monument of former New York Rep. Shirley Chisholm in Prospect Park.

The monument is the first to be commissioned by the She Built NYC initiative, which aims to create more statues to memorialize women who have had lasting impacts on the city. There are currently only a handful of statues of real women in the five boroughs. 

Chisholm, a Brooklyn native who became the first black congresswoman, was selected to be the subject of the first She Built NYC monument after more than 2,000 nominations from the public.

Now, New Yorkers are invited to give feedback on the designs until Sunday, March 31, at women.nyc. The artists were chosen in January at a Percent for Art panel, run by the Department of Cultural Affairs, and the winning design will be selected in early April. 

The monument is expected to be ready by the end of 2020 and will be placed at the Parkside Avenue entrance to Prospect Park. It is part of a $9.5 million restoration of the Parkside and Ocean Avenue perimeters. 

Scroll down to see the designs and read excerpts from each artist's statement. 

Firelei Báez

Firelei Báez's proposal "is comprised of a series
Photo Credit: Firelei Báez

Firelei Báez's proposal "is comprised of a series of hand-painted metal columns that collectively shape-shift into three respective portraits" of Chisholm.

"As the viewer walks around the sculpture, the partial images painted onto each of the posts' three sides will coalesce into distinct portraits when viewed from specific perspectives," the artist said. "Each of the three portraits represents a different aspect of Chisholm's public role and accomplishments."

La Vaughn Belle

La Vaughn Belle based this design on Chisholm's
Photo Credit: La Vaughn Belle

La Vaughn Belle based this design on Chisholm's famous quote, "If they don’t give you a seat at the table bring a folding chair."

"This monument invites visitors to not only think about Chisholm's personal journey from childhood to elderhood, but also the movement of a people and a nation," the artist said.

Tanda Francis

Tanda Francis calls this design "a bold and
Photo Credit: Tanda Francis

Tanda Francis calls this design "a bold and timeless dedication to Shirley Chisholm."

"Her inspiring quotes are embedded into the ground of the sidewalk leading to the Ocean Avenue entrance of Prospect Park," Francis' statement says. "This trail tempers visitors to the mindset of this great woman as they approach her monumental bronze representation framed by vertical jets of water and light."

Mickalene Thomas

"Rather than portraying Shirley standing at a podium
Photo Credit: Mickalene Thomas

"Rather than portraying Shirley standing at a podium and speaking down to her audience, this model will instead show her rooted in the peoples' space and speaking to their truths," artist Mickalene Thomas said. "Shirley's figure will be created at human-scale and seated at the viewers' level so that audiences can engage with her ... this will be a space for people to congregate."

Amanda Williams and Olalekan Jeyifous

This design "celebrates (Chisholm's) legacy as a civil
Photo Credit: Amanda Williams and Olalekan Jeyifous

This design "celebrates [Chisholm's] legacy as a civil servant who 'left the door open' to make a space for others to follow in her path toward equity and a place in our country's political landscape," the artists said.

At certain vantage points, viewers will be able to see Chisholm's silhouette "inextricably intertwined" with the U.S. Capitol building. "This mashup symbolizes how she disrupted the perception of who has the right to occupy such institutions and to be an embodiment for democracy," the artists said.

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