The University's Public Arts Committee has begun considering building a public memorial to the historical ties of Brown and of Rhode Island to the slave trade, almost two years after the University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice convened by President Ruth Simmons recommended one.
The committee is set to discuss ideas for the nature and placement of a memorial at a meeting next month, said committee member Jo-Ann Conklin, director of the David Winton Bell Gallery.
"The memorial is in recognition of a period in our history that, for many, is very painful," said Artemis Joukowsky '55 P'87, chancellor emeritus and chair of the committee. Joukowsky said the project represented a brave undertaking for the University and would "make us one of the few in the country to have such a memorial."
So far, plans for the project — which lacks a specific deadline — have consisted of informal brainstorming among committee members.
Joukowsky said having a memorial near the planned Alpert Medical School complex in downtown's Jewelry District is "an especially exciting idea."
"The memorial could somehow be on or near the bridge connecting our campus to the new proposed medical school area," he said, noting that the committee will consider several ideas, including installing a plaque in memory of the slave trade.
If placed near the bridge, Conklin said the installation would remind people of the slave trade given that "slave memorials are usually on a waterfront" since "the people were brought here on ships."
Other members of the committee include Professor of Visual Arts Richard Fishman, Professor of History of Art and Architecture Dietrich Neumann, Senior Lecturer in American Civilization and University Curator Robert Emlen and Susan Freedman '82, president of the New York-based Public Art Fund.
Though the exact cost of a memorial remains to be determined, Conklin said it would be funded by Simmons' discretionary fund, reserved for uses deemed especially appropriate by the president's office.
The memorial will also recognize the state's connection to slavery, Conklin said, noting that it is important to open a broader discussion about the historical slave trade with local residents.
"It would be a great to have forums and discussions for the community," she said. "We will want a lot of input from all different groups as to how the memorial will be presented."
Conklin and Joukowsky said that even though a plan for the memorial might be agreed on in the near future, the question of its location will still remain.
"We don't have that much space on our main campus," Conklin said.
Marisa Quinn, vice president for public affairs and University relations, said the committee will eventually make its recommendations to the Corporation's Committee on Facilities and Design.
"Clearly, Brown, the city and the state's history with slavery and the Atlantic slave trade has been meaningful," Quinn said. "It is important to our culture and who we are to constantly re-examine this past."