NYC Dept. of Cultural Affairs & Artist Kameelah Janan Rasheed Propose Permanent Public Artwork in Brooklyn

The artist's proposed artwork - Questions Worth Having Answers To - will uplift the abolitionist legacy of Downtown Brooklyn and examine what work remains.

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As part of the new Abolitionist Place in Downtown Brooklyn, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and artist Kameelah Janan Rasheed are inviting New Yorkers - particularly those connected to the surrounding communities - to learn more about and engage with the artist's proposed public artwork for the new public green space.

Rasheed's proposal - Questions Worth Having Answers To - consists of a text-based public art installation featuring engraved text throughout the open space, plus a free-standing sculptural installation, inspired by the area's abolitionist history. The goal of the public engagement is to hear from different communities about how they make sense of the theme of abolition - past, present, and future. Community responses will, in turn, inform and shape the text that the artist will generate to be engraved and featured on the free-standing sculptural installation.

Kameelah Rasheed's Questions Worth Having Answers To both reflects the great history of abolition centered in Downtown Brooklyn, and invites New Yorkers to come together to envision what work still needs to be done," said Kendal Henry, Assistant Commissioner of Public Art at the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs. "In the coming months, we encourage residents to speak up, connect with Kameelah, and engage in this urgent conversation that will shape this extraordinary work of public art."

"With this project, I want to invite everyone in this community to the table to help articulate and understand what it is we've achieved as a society when it comes to freedom and abolition, and what work is still ahead" said artist Kameelah Janan Rasheed. "Questions Worth Having Answers To will weave our shared history and common hopes for our society together in Abolitionist Place. Please join us in the weeks ahead to discuss, learn, teach, and engage."

"I'm very excited to have this public space in Brooklyn dedicated to the history and future of abolition, not to mention it's right down the street from Borough Hall! This art piece by Kameelah Janan Rasheed will capture how Brooklyn is feeling in this extraordinary moment about a critical concept for racial and social justice," said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. "I encourage all Brooklynites to participate in the public engagement process - it's an opportunity for your words to become art and leave a historical, positive impact on Brooklyn."

"We are pleased to continue our partnership with EDC and DCLA on the future of this sacred site, and thrilled that an artist of Ms. Rasheed's international standing has been selected to lead the community visioning process. We hope that all of our District residents will be inspired to participate, learn, and contribute their voices to this project of remembrance," said Lenue H. Singletary III; Chairperson, Brooklyn Community Board 2.

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 wave, engagement will be primarily remote, including through Zoom introductions (one on January 24 and another on February 7); a virtual Abolition Study Group; one-on-one phone calls with the artist; and completing a Google form. The full schedule of public engagement opportunities, which is subject to updates, is availablea??on the artist's website.a?? Based on early responses and conversations, Rasheed is also interested in creating additional pathways for engagement, such as direct mailings or other methods recommended by the community.

Rasheed has been commissioned for this project through DCLA's Percent for Art program. The artist lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. Engaging primarily with text, Rasheed works on the page, within digital interfaces, on walls, and in public spaces. She is invested in Black storytelling technologies that invite us to consider ways of [un]learning that are interdisciplinary, interspecies, and interstellar. Rasheed's work has been exhibited nationally at the Brooklyn Museum; the New Museum; MASS MoCA; the Queens Museum; the Bronx Museum; the Studio Museum in Harlem; Portland Institute for Contemporary Art; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; the Brooklyn Public Library; and the Brooklyn Historical Society, among others. Her public installations have appeared at Ballroom Marfa; the Brooklyn Museum; For Freedoms x Times Square Art, New York; Public Art Fund, New York; Moody Center for the Arts, Houston; The California Air Resources Board; and several others. She is a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow in Fine Arts.

This project builds on the work of In Pursuit of Freedom, which has explored Brooklyn's anti-slavery movement from the end of the American Revolution to the early days of Reconstruction through programming, photographs, census records, anti-slavery and local newspapers, maps and more.

"It's so exciting to see the ambition of thisa??project moving forward with public engagement. Now, with the performance created the museum exhibitions available to students and scholarsa??and residents working together to designa??the new public artworka?? we can finally share the full scope of Brooklyn's history of abolitionism and celebrate the men and women who so bravely paved the way to freedom," said Terry Greiss, Executive Director of Irondale.

The City's open space, Abolitionist Place will commemorate the 19th century abolitionist movement, with a focus on the Underground Railroad, and its ties to Brooklyn. The New York City Economic Development Corporation led community engagement on the open space since 2010, and the design has been approved by the City's Public Design Commission. Aside from the public artwork, the 1.15 acre site will offer community amenities, such as a new playground for children and multiple outdoor seating areas. Construction is slated to be completed on the project in 2023.



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