It’s official: The first She Built NYC commission, a monument to trailblazing Brooklyn Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, officially has a designer.
The sculpture, which will be placed at the entrance to Prospect Park at Parkside and Ocean avenues, will be designed by Amanda Williams and Olalekan Jeyifous, who are also collaborating on a project for the National Public Housing Museum in Chicago. Their piece, titled “Our Destiny, Our Democracy,” will blend different imagery—of Chisholm herself, and of the dome of the U.S. Capitol building—into one 40-foot-tall steel sculpture.
Here’s how the artists describe the piece in their statement on the project:
We have created a monument to Shirley Chisholm that celebrates her 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.
Depending upon your vantage point and approach to the Ocean Avenue entrance, you can see Ms. Chisholm’s silhouette inextricably intertwined with the iconic dome of 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.
Additionally, the statue is designed to sit upon a platform that will have steps inscribed with the names of women who were inspired by Chisholm. Williams expanded on that last element in an interview with the New York Times, stating that “[i]t 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.”
“This artwork will be bright, bold, and makes a statement—just like Chisholm herself,” First Lady Chirlane McCray said in a statement.
Williams and Jeyifous’s piece was one of five finalists selected by the city for the monument to Chisholm, with the winner selected by the city’s Percent for Art panel (which includes reps from city government as well as other local stakeholders). The monument will be installed by the end of 2020, and is part of a larger redesign of the park’s Parkside Avenue entrance. Other upgrades will include a protected bike lane, new trees, and street furniture.
The monument is the first of five statues of significant women that will be erected across the five boroughs as part of the city’s She Built NYC initiative (bringing the grand total of statues honoring women in New York City up to, ahem, ten.) Others will honor jazz singer Billie Holiday and civil rights leader Elizabeth Jennings Graham.