MLK Memorial Expanded, Mayor Walsh says

On June 8, in response to community feedback from 14 public meetings held across the city, Mayor Walsh and non-profit MLK Boston announced an expansion of the project commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, according to a press release issued by the mayor’s office.

The release said that the project will include a memorial on the Boston Common, as well as an “immersive educational experience in Dudley Square.” It also said that the project intends to include funding for programming in conjunction with the Twelfth Baptist Church in Roxbury.

The memorial will honor the international legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work, as well as his work in Boston. The memorial will function as a “call to action” for the community to face various social justice issues, including racial and economic inequality. It will also be evidence of Coretta Scott King’s belief in art and her “struggles against militarism, poverty, discrimination, racism, and sexsim,” according to the release.

“The public has been instrumental by sharing their feedback, ideas and hopes for the memorial, and I want to thank everyone that has contributed to this process,” Mayor Walsh said in in the release.

“It is vitally important that this memorial is accessible to the people of Boston. Dr. King dedicated his life to fighting for civil rights, racial equity, and economic justice, so it is fitting to have Dudley Square, in the heart of Roxbury, as a location for this memorial, in addition to the Boston Common,” said City Councilor Kim Janey.

In December, the City and MLK Boston asked for submissions from artists internationally. After reviewing 126 submissions from local and international artists, five were selected as finalists. The finalists will create proposals that will be revealed for public comment in September.

“By expanding the reach of this memorial from Roxbury to the Boston Common, we are elevating the Kings’ living legacy for residents and visitors across Boston in a way that has never been done before,” said Mayor Walsh in the release. “I’m confident that these five artists have the knowledge, experience, and talent to use feedback from the community to create a world-class memorial that honors the Kings’ impact on the City and beyond.”

The five finalists include:

Barbara Chase-Riboud with Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, who has been creating abstract art for over 50 years and has memorialized Malcolm X.

David Adjaye and Adam Pendleton with FuturePace, a collaboration between architect David Adjaye, who led the design for the Smithsonian Institute National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and artist Adam Pendleton, who is known for painting, sculpture, writing, film and performance, and for including the “language of civil rights and social justice movements” in his artwork.

Hank Willis Thomas and MASS Design Group, whose work centers around “identity, history, and popular culture”, and has been displayed all over the world, including at the International Center of Photography and the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Wodiczko + Bonder and Maryann Thompson Architects, a partnership based in Cambridge, Massachusetts that centers on art and design projects that use public space as a platform for “issues of social memory, survival, and struggle and emancipation”  from issues such as domestic violence, war, genocides, and slavery.

Yinka Shonibare, whose work focuses on looking at “issues of race and class through the media of painting, sculpture, photography, and film”, and is known for using African batik fabric, an emblem of “African identity and independence.”

“We are humbled by the outpouring of interest in this project, as well as the quality of all the artists’ submissions,” said Robin Powell Mandjes, executive director of MLK Boston in the release. “The artist selection process reflects input that we’ve received from across the city, across communities, and across constituencies. We could not be more pleased with this outstanding group of finalists.”

The Friends of the Public Garden released the following statement in response to the announcement: “We are pleased to learn of the future plans of the MLK Memorial and look forward to welcoming Bostonians and visitors alike to experience this artistic expression of moral courage, resilience, and social justice on Boston Common, for centuries the City’s center of civic life and free expression. Public art greatly enhances our public spaces, and this Memorial will provide an invaluable place for both reflection and inspiration. We also applaud the important educational initiatives and programming planned for Roxbury. Thank you to Mayor Walsh, Paul English, and MLK Boston for advocating for this important project and recognizing Dr. King’s legacy here in Boston. We look forward to working with MLK Boston and the City as plans for the Memorial progress.”

The release states that MLK Boston will provide each of the finalists with a $10,000 stipend to create the design proposals, and the final artist will be announced in November.

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