University News

Plans for slave trade memorial resume

Contributing Writer
Thursday, September 30, 2010

Work is set to resume on a memorial commemorating Brown’s ties to the slave trade after a six-month fundraising hold.

The memorial, originally recommended by the 2006 report from the University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice, had been put on “hold” until last week, according to Jo-Ann Conklin, director of the David Winton Bell Gallery and member of the memorial oversight committee.

“We have been on hold, waiting for fundraising from the president, and now we can reconvene,” Conklin said.

The memorial’s purpose is to inform the student body while being a “living site of memory, inviting reflection and fresh discovery without provoking paralysis or shame,” according to the Commission on Memorials, which was formed after the original Steering Committee recommendation.

Administrators placed a hold on the project in order to raise money, to solicit proposals from artists and to hire an outside consultant to help with the selection process, Conklin said. The tribute will be completely privately funded and cost several-hundred-thousand dollars, she said.

Conklin said the committee had worked last spring with Wendy Feuer, assistant commissioner of urban design and art at the New York City Department of Transportation. But she said Feuer has not yet confirmed that she will continue to work on the project despite the delay.

Feuer has worked with the University on previous projects including Sidney Frank Hall for Life Sciences, Conklin said.

Conklin praised Feuer’s abilities, saying she has “tons of experience” in the field.

Now that the process has restarted, Conklin said she hopes to select an artist by the end of the academic year, though conflicting schedules among committee members has made progress difficult.

Progress on other aspects of the project has been made during the six-month hold. The location for the monument has been narrowed down to two areas of campus: near the Main Green or on the Walk between Pembroke and main campuses.

The entire project is overseen by the 13-person Slavery Memorial Committee chaired by former Chancellor Artemis Joukowsky ’55 P’87 and includes President Ruth Simmons and Spencer Crew, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.

The process will be divided into three main stages, according to Conklin. The members of the committee will first field roughly 30 potential artist choices via suggestions from within the 13-person group as well as the entire Brown community. Then, Conklin said, the committee will commission five of the original group of artists to prepare a proposal after being provided a site visit to scope out the two potential locations. The committee will then choose the winning idea, she said.