Final five: City releases draft proposals for planned memorial honoring Shirley Chisholm

Different sides: The Department of Cultural Affairs released five selections of artwork to honor former Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm in the new park. This shape-shifting portrait was proposed by artist Firelie Báez, and includes three different images of Chisholm that morph based on the viewer’s perspective.
Department of Cultural Affairs

City art honchos have narrowed proposals for a Prospect Park memorial to Brooklyn-born trailblazer Shirley Chisholm to a shortlist of five cutting-edge designs, and now they’re asking Kings County art critics to weigh in.

“We invite all New Yorkers let us know what they think and help shape this landmark contribution to NYC’s public space,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl,

The city put out an open call for artists in December after announcing the memorial for Chisholm — who in 1968 made history as the first black woman elected to Congress — as the first in the She Built NYC series of statues and monuments honoring women. In January, a panel of city officials, design gurus, and local stakeholders whittled down the list of nominees to five artists, who created the proposals revealed on Wednesday.

The proposed designs include:

• Firelie Báez’s shape-shifting portrait, which includes three different images of Chisholm that morph based on the viewer’s perspective.

• La Vaughn Belle’s statue of Chisholm, wearing a turban and carrying a folding chair, that evokes her famous quote, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table bring a folding chair.”

• A massive bust of Chisholm proposed by Tanda Francis, preceded by a trail of motivational quotes and vertical jets of light and water.

• A life-sized statue of Chisholm seated on an antique car by Mickalene Thomas, surrounded by planters and benches.

• Similar to Báez’s proposal, artists Amanda Williams and Olalekan Jeifous’s design shifts based on the viewer’s perspective, and shows Chisholm intertwined with the US Capitol Building.

Locals have until March 31 to submit comments online regarding the five proposals, after which the city panel will reconvene in April to select a final winner, although their draft proposal may change before a final design is submitted for construction, according to Ryan Max, a spokesman for the city Department of Cultural Affairs.

The She Built NYC initiative that spawned the Chisholm memorial project was created on the suggestion of the Mayoral Monuments Commission, which Mayor Bill de Blasio convened following the riots that plagued Charlottesville in 2017 amid a proposal by that city’s government to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

The state of Chisholm will be installed at the Parkside Avenue entrance to Brooklyn’s Backyard located near Ocean Avenue, and is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.

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