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Alison Saar’s statue of Harriet Tubman, Sing Low, 2007, at Harriet Tubman Plaza in Manhattan. Photo: John Back.

New York City Launches Public Art Initiative to Honor Women’s History

The city of New York has launched a new public art initiative that will commission artworks honoring women’s history. Mayor Bill de Blasio, through the Department of Cultural Affairs, has committed up to $10 million over the next four years to fund new permanent public monuments and other works.

Called She Built NYC, the initiative kicked off on June 20 with a call for nominations of women or historical events that significantly impacted New York City. Through Women.nyc, members of the public made nearly 2,000 suggestions. The city will now work to narrow the list down to five finalists for commemoration. To qualify, the events must have happened at least twenty years ago, and the nominated individuals must no longer be living. Then an advisory panel will help match the women, group of women, or event to a public site.

According to a press release, the project will build on recommendations from the Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments, and Markers “to expand the stories, histories, and narratives currently represented on public property in New York.” The initiative acknowledges and plans to remedy the city’s failure to honor the contributions of trailblazing women and nonbinary individuals.

She Built NYC is also calling for interested artists to submit responses to the project’s request for qualifications by September 30. The artist selected to make the first public work for the project will be chosen by the Percent for Art program, which uses 1 percent of the budget for eligible city-funded construction projects to commission public art. The budget for the first work will be up to $1 million. For information on how to apply, visit the city’s website.

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