Shirley Chisholm Monument, BK Reader
Rendering courtesy Amanda Williams and Olalekan Jeyifous

The planned Prospect Park monument honoring trailblazing Brooklyn Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm officially has a design team, the Department of Cultural Affairs announced.

The design proposal by architects and visual artists Amanda Williams and Olalekan Jeyifous, called “Our Destiny, Our Democracy,” was selected through the department’s Percent for Art program and with the input from New Yorkers. 

Williams and Jeyifous are acclaimed artists who have exhibited widely. Williams is currently a member of the multidisciplinary team at the Obama Presidential Center; Jeyifous has designed large-scale installations at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and Twitter’s Manhattan headquarters.

“Our Destiny, Our Democracy” will blend different images of Chisholm intertwined with the dome of the U.S. Capitol building into one 40-foot lace-like steel installation. This mashup, according to the artists’ statement, “symbolizes how she disrupted the perception of who has the right to occupy such institutions and to be an embodiment for democracy.”

Rendering courtesy Amanda Williams and Olalekan Jeyifous

Set in an amphitheater-like space, scattered with bronzed seats, the monument is designed to welcome people in, reflecting Chisholm’s legacy advocating for marginalized groups in her fight for equality and inclusion. Some seats will be engraved with the names of other pioneering women that followed the late congresswoman’s path; others are left blank for future women trailblazers to claim their seat. The monument is embellished with ornate patterns of vegetation, inspired by traditional park gates, that make reference to the monument’s home in Prospect Park.

“Our project celebrates Shirley Chisholm’s legacy as a civil servant who ‘left the door open’ to make room for others to follow in her path toward equity and a place in our country’s political landscape,” said Amanda Williams and Olalekan Jeyifous. “We have designed a monument in which her iconic visage can be immediately recognizable while also equally portraying the power, beauty and dimensionality of her contributions to our democracy.”

Williams and Jeyifous’ proposal was among dozens of submissions received by the Percent for Art program. After a panel of City officials and local stakeholders selected five final proposals, the City invited the public to chime in on the design ideas that ranged from a monumental bronze representation of Chisholm’s profile, to the congresswoman bringing her own folded chair to get “a seat at the table,” to shape-shifting columns incorporating elements of the Yoruba tradition.

DCLA and Percent for Art will now work with the artists to refine the proposal with input from the Parks Department, Prospect Park Alliance and community stakeholders. The proposal will then be presented to local community boards for further comment and review, before being submitted to the City’s Public Design Commission this fall. 

Rendering courtesy Amanda Williams and Olalekan Jeyifous

The Chisholm monument, expected to take its position by the end of 2020, is the first one commissioned as part of She Built NYC, an initiative spearheaded by First Lady Chirlane McCray to construct public monuments honoring the New York City women who have changed history.

“She Built NYC is transforming public art in our City by honoring the contributions of women who helped build and shape it,” said McCray. “Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm’s dynamic leadership and activism continue to inspire all who learn her story and her service deserves public recognition. This artwork will be bright, bold and makes a statement –just like Chisholm herself.”

The monument will be installed as a part of Prospect Park’s major restoration and will include new sidewalks, paving, lighting, street furniture, trees and a protected bike lane.

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Andrea Leonhardt

“Made in Germany,” Andrea Leonhardt is the managing editor for BK Reader. Andrea holds a bachelor’s degree in political science, with minors in American studies and education, and a master’s...

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