There are very few public monuments to women in Brooklyn, New York, which would have undoubtedly roused Shirley Chisholm to action. So it’s fitting that Chisholm—who was the first Black woman to serve in Congress, the first Black person to seek a major political party’s nomination for president and the first woman to vie for the top spot as a Democrat—will be memorialized via a striking new public sculpture.
The 40-foot tall structure will be built on the southeast corner of Prospect Park, New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs announced yesterday (April 24). It’s the first commission in an initiative called She Built NYC. Created last summer by the city’s first lady, Chirlane McCray, and the deputy mayor and the Department of Cultural Affairs, the program seeks to correct the gender imbalance in the city’s public art. “Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm’s dynamic leadership and activism continues to inspire all who learn her story, and her service deserves public recognition,” McCray said in a statement. “This artwork will be bright, bold and makes a statement—just like Chisholm herself.”
The work is designed by artists Amanda Williams and Olalekan Jeyifous and it is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2020. The design, as outlined in a proposal, features a towering structure that fuses a depiction of Chisholm’s iconic portrait with a silhouette of the United States Capitol building. The monument will also include an amphitheater-style seating area.
“This becomes something that’s occupiable,” Williams told The New York Times. “It allows you to be enveloped in a conversation about interacting and bringing others along. This approach to a monument is that it’s an invitation to participate.”