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The winning memorial design by Hank Willis Thomas and MASS Design Group. Photo: King Boston.
The winning memorial design by Hank Willis Thomas and MASS Design Group. Photo: King Boston.

Hank Willis Thomas and MASS Design Group to Create MLK and Coretta Scott King Memorial in Boston

Hank Willis Thomas and the MASS Design Group have won a design competition for a new Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King memorial that will be installed on the Boston Common in Massachusetts in 2020, the private nonprofit group King Boston announced yesterday. Titled The Embrace, the twenty-two-foot-high monument of interlocked reflective bronze arms was inspired by images of the Kings walking arm-in-arm at the frontlines of protests and marches. 

“Hank Willis Thomas and MASS Design Group proposed a memorial that excited the greatest community support, and also met the criteria of the Art Committee and the City,” said Barry Gaither, cochair of the King Boston Art Committee. “All of the finalists presented powerful and imaginative ideas for honoring Coretta Scott and Martin Luther King, Jr., but the committee felt that The Embrace captured the spirit of love and community that was so central to the Kings’ work, and that we want to radiate across the city from the Boston Common.”

The design was selected from 126 applications. Finalists included Boston’s King Memorial, by Adam Pendleton and Adjaye Associates with Future/Pace and David Reinfurt, and The Ripple Effects, by Wodiczko + Bonder / Maryann Thompson Architects with Walter Hood.

In the proposal for the memorial, Thomas wrote: “In evoking the love shared between the Kings, their commitment to each other, and their ideals, The Embrace is overwhelmingly simple and accessible: it is about what we share, not what sets us apart.” 

“We often look at the heroes without seeing who is holding them up and where their courage or strength comes from,” he continued in a phone interview with NPR. “The love that she exhibited by carrying his legacy even after he was gone is something we should be paying attention to.”

King Boston estimates the sculpture will cost between $3 million and $4 million. The organization has raised more than $6 million for the project. Leftover funds will go toward the development of the King Center for Economic Justice, a civic education and programming facility that is planned for Roxbury, Massachusetts. 

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