A Call to Peace

A Call to Peace was a public art and history exhibition co-curated by New Arts Justice and Monument Lab around a central question: What is a timely monument for Newark? The exhibition was conceived in response to Military Park’s Wars of America monument (1926), built by sculptor Gutzon Borglum. Borglum, famed for creating Mount Rushmore and designing a Confederate Monument on Stone Mountain in Georgia, was also affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan and used granite from Stone Mountain as the pedestal for his sculpture in Newark.

As the park’s organisers were in the process of refurbishing the sculpture and officially updating the story it tells in the park, A Call to Peace attempted to engage and confront Borglum’s own fraught legacy as well as invite speculation on the broader role of public art in the city today.                   

A Call to Peace included four temporary prototype monuments by artists Manuel Acevedo, Chakaia Booker, Sonya Clark, and Jamel Shabazz, who each responded to the exhibition’s central question. The artists’ projects respectively focused on underrepresented veterans, engaging the legacies of the Confederate statues, and addressing the relationship between public spaces and historical memory. The artists were invited based on their interdisciplinary approaches to monumental work and their innovative approaches to art and social justice.

Alongside the prototype monuments, New Arts and Monument Lab opened a participatory research lab, staffed by local artists and educators, where passersby were invited to contribute their own speculative monument proposals. The collected responses will be added to an open database, posted on a community board in Express Newark, and shared as a report to the city in 2020. Every Thursday, the lab also hosted weekly “Monumental Conversations” with critical members of Newark’s community who are actively working on issues of monuments, cultural memory, and historic preservation. In a city with a strong artist-activist history, we saw A Call to Peace as an invitation for public participants to help redefine these complex histories and contested public spaces together.

Research

The Monument Lab research team gathered 186 hand drawn monument proposals from residents and visitors to Newark in the fall of 2019 that responded to the question, “What is a timely monument for Newark?” In addition to asking for monument proposals, the paper form also included the following fields: "name your monument," "place your monument," "age," "zipcode," and "how do you identify?” as well as “your name, @, and/or hashtag”.  For each proposal collected, the research team transformed the form form into data in the following ways: 1) They assigned a unique identifier to the form, which they used to refer to that particular proposal across all data systems. 2) They scanned it to create a digital image, and named the image using the unique identifier. 3) They transcribed text fields from the form onto a table in Airtables and 4) They added each place identified on the hand drawn map to a separate table containing an inventory of all of the places identified by participants.

The resulting dataset is accessible in the following manner:

  • To browse the transcribed proposal forms, check out Airtables view
  • To view a gallery of all scanned map images, see Flickr
Credits

Featured Artists: Manuel Acevedo, Chakaia Booker, Sonya Clark, and Jamel Shabazz. 
Co-Curators: Salamishah Tillet, New Arts Justice and Paul Farber, Monument Lab
Assistant Curator: Alliyah Allen
Curator of Engagement: fayemi shakur
Strategy and Operations: Dr. Laura Troiano
Public History Research Partner: Mark Krasovic

Partners: New Arts Justice Initiative at Rutgers University-Newark; Mayor Ras Baraka and the City of Newark; Clement A. Price Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience; Rutgers University-Newark Departments of African-American and African Studies and Creative Writing Program; Express Newark; John Cotton Dana Library; Military Park Partnership; Newark Arts Festival; the Newark Museum; Project for Empty Space; and SHINE Portrait Studio.

Advisory Board Members
Mayor Ras Baraka, City of Newark
Fran Bartkowski, Rutgers-Newark, Chair of the Department of Arts, Culture, and Media
Anonda Bell, Rutgers-Newark, Director and Chief Curator of Paul Robeson Galleries
Tricia Bloom, Curator of American Art at the Newark Museum
Victor Davson, Rutgers-Newark, Co-Director of Express Newark
Anne Englot, Rutgers-Newark, Co-Director of Express Newark
Peter Englot, Rutgers-Newark, Senior Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs and Chief of Staff
Rebecca Jampol, Co-Founder and Co-Director of Project for Empty Space
Jeremy Johnson, Director, Newark Arts Festival
Mark Krascovic, Rutgers-Newark, Associate Director of the Price Institute
Dominic Kline, Rutgers-Newark, Director of Shine Portrait Studio
Jessica Sechrist, Park Manager, Military Park Partnerships
Jasmine Wahi, Co-Founder and Co-Director, Project for Empty Space