FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 28, 2018
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DEPARTMENT OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS SEEKS ARTISTS TO DESIGN NEW MONUMENT AS PART OF “BEYOND SIMS”
The new artwork will address the legacy of J. Marion Sims, whose statue formerly occupied the pedestal at 103rd Street and Fifth Avenue in East Harlem
Call for artists will be open through January 31, 2019
New York, NY – The NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and NYC Parks, together with the Committee to Empower Voices for Healing and Equity, today announced an open call for artists to design an artwork to fill the space formerly occupied by a statue of J. Marion Sims, which was removed in April 2018. The new artwork commission is part of the Beyond Sims effort to transcend Sims’ legacy of performing medical experimentation on women of color and reinterpret the site where his sculpture formerly stood. Artists may respond to the open call on Submittable through January 31, 2019.
“Following the Mayoral Monuments Commission’s report, we stood alongside community advocates to remove the statue of J. Marion Sims from Central Park. That extraordinary moment was just the beginning of the process to go beyond Sims’ legacy of medical experimentation on enslaved black women,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl. “Now we need artists to help us imagine what comes next.”
“We look forward to welcoming many ideas and visions for a new monument on the perimeter of Central Park where J. Marion Sims once stood,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP. “This call for artists is an exciting milestone in the continually evolving conversations about monuments and who we honor in our city’s public spaces. Parks is honored to be a part of this process alongside our partners at DCLA, DOHMH and the Committee to Empower Voices for Healing and Equity.”
“It is exciting to see the artist selection process moving forward after so many members of this community fought to have the J. Marion Sims statue removed,” said Council Member Diana Ayala. “The progress we have witnessed so far is proof that anything can be done when the community joins together. My hope is that the artist who joins this process will be committed to helping us bring the community’s vision to fruition for all to enjoy.”
“Central Park is the world’s most beautiful civic green space. With the removal of the Sims statue, we’ve taken an ugly stain off the perimeter of the park – and now it’s time to find a new vision for a monument that truly deserves to stand on Fifth at 103rd Street for years to come,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer.
“I commend the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs on this initiative, and I look forward to viewing the artwork and public installation that will reflect our nation’s history as well as our continued efforts to inspire future generations, as well as promote activism, diversity and inclusion for all communities of color,” said Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13). “Our city is known for its artist culture and expression, and I encourage all artists to submit applications through the January 31 deadline to ensure that this project truly reflects and captures the beauty, richness, and diversity that our society has to offer today and the inspiration created for the next generation of leaders.”
“Public art enhances our public spaces, but it also serves as our legacy to future generations,” said NY State Senator José M. Serrano. “As we move ahead into this new chapter for our community and our city, I look forward to artwork that educates and inspires, while reflecting our shared values as New Yorkers.”
This project follows the Mayor’s decision to remove the statue of J. Marion Sims earlier this year, building on recommendations of the Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments, and Markers and years of community activism.
The selected artist will work with community stakeholders, including the Committee to Empower Voices for Healing and Equity, to develop an artwork that moves beyond Sims’ legacy of medical experimentation and reinterprets the site where his sculpture formerly stood. The Committee, comprised of East Harlem advocacy groups, cultural organizations, City Council and Community Board representatives, and City agencies, was formed in October 2018 around a commitment to expanding representation through public artwork in East Harlem to explore the legacy of racism and inequities in reproductive justice in the medical community.
The full request for qualifications is available here. The artist chosen to design a monument will be determined through the City’s Percent for Art commissioning process. The anticipated installation date for the new artwork is December 2020.
The Committee to Empower Voices for Healing and Equity has created a survey to seek public input on what and who will replace the Sims statue. English and Spanish versions of the survey can be accessed here.
About NYC Department of Cultural Affairs
The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) is dedicated to supporting and strengthening New York City’s vibrant cultural life. DCLA works to promote and advocate for quality arts programming and to articulate the contribution made by the cultural community to the City’s vitality. The Department represents and serves nonprofit cultural organizations involved in the visual, literary, and performing arts; public-oriented science and humanities institutions including zoos, botanical gardens, and historic and preservation societies; and creative artists at all skill levels who live and work within the City’s five boroughs. DCLA also provides donated materials for arts programs offered by the public schools and cultural and social service groups, and commissions permanent works of public art at City-funded construction projects throughout the five boroughs. For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/culture.