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Finalist proposals announced for Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King Memorial

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Arts and Culture

The five finalist proposals will be on display at the Boston Public Library and Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building in Dudley Square.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh and MLK Boston, founded by Paul English and co-chaired by Liz Walker, along with the Mayor's Office of Arts & Culture, in collaboration with the Boston Public Library today announced the five finalist proposals for the new memorial honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King are now on display at Boston Public Library's Central Library in Copley Square and the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal building in Dudley Square until October 16, 2018.

"Each one of these five proposals does a tremendous job of honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King and their ideals, teachings and values," said Mayor Walsh. "I look forward to hearing the public's response to each proposal, and gathering their feedback on which project best exemplifies the profound impact the Kings had on the City of Boston."

The public is invited to visit the displays available at the Boston Public Library (first floor) and Bolling Building (second floor) and leave public comments there or on the MLK Boston website. The MLK Boston Art Committee will review each proposal and public comment, and the final artist/team is expected to be announced in November 2018.

In December 2017, the City of Boston, via the Boston Art Commission, and MLK Boston released an international Request for Qualifications, asking artists, designers, and other creatives to submit their visions for a permanent work of art on the Boston Common commemorating the legacies of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King. The memorial project will honor their profound impact upon the world, our nation, and the City of Boston, where they met and fell in love as students.  

"I find breathtaking components in each of the five proposals that inspire and provoke, and speak to both this country's troubled past and our potential future," said Liz Walker, co-chair of MLK Boston. "Even more importantly, each proposal speaks to the many voices Paul and I have heard as we have moved around this city, from neighborhood to neighborhood, inviting people to take part in the project. Whatever the final choice is, it will represent a collective voice."

Over a dozen community meetings were held with civic representatives, activists, youth leaders and other residents throughout the city to discuss the project. As a result of these meetings, the project vision was expanded from a single memorial site to three components: an outdoor memorial on the Boston Common, a dynamic program headquartered in Roxbury and in partnership with leading local stakeholders that oversees civic, educational, and economic equity programming, and an endowment in partnership with Twelfth Baptist Church to educate and train nonviolent activists.

"Public art has the power to inspire and unify by centering memory and symbolizing shared values," said Barry Gaither, co-chair of MLK Boston's Art Committee. "More profoundly than words alone, art can touch both personal and universal dimensions of our humanity. In this context, the proposals before us movingly evoke the legacy of the Kings--Martin Luther and Coretta--in Boston and globally."

The five finalist artists/teams were announced in June, and they developed proposals for the outdoor memorial component of the project. More information on each artist and their proposal can be found here. The finalists and their proposals include:

Wodiczko + Bonder / Maryann Thompson Architects, with Walter Hood

Wodiczko+Bonder is a partnership based in Cambridge, Massachusetts by artist and professor Krzysztof Wodiczko and architect and professor Julian Bonder that focuses on art and design projects that engage public space and raise the issues of social memory, survival, struggle and emancipation. Maryann Thompson Architects (MTA) is a Cambridge-based architecture firm that specializes in architecture that is sustainable, regionally driven and that attempts to heighten the phenomenological qualities of the site in which they work. Walter Hood is the Creative Director and Founder of Hood Design Studio in Oakland, California, who designs and creates urban spaces and objects that are public sculpture. Their proposal, The Ripple Effects: Resonance of Voices, History, Love and Action, includes Beacon Towers, which symbolize the continuing presence, inspiration, and impact of the Kings' moral and social leadership. Emanating from the Beacon Towers are ripples that evoke the "ripple effect" of the words, actions, and leadership of The Kings. The Mound creates a journey "to the mountaintop" culminating in a deliberately empty and shaded platform conceived to bring into being a public community of engaged visitors. The "bridge" leading from the 54th Memorial across the Common past the Beacon Towers is inscribed with a chronology of emancipatory events. Below it, a glass wall offers a more intimate and self-reflective encounter with written and spoken texts that teach and inspire. The reflective surface of the glass allows for the visitor to see themselves within the context of the inscribed words, and in the company of "others."

Yinka Shonibare and Stephen Stimson Associates Landscape Architects

Yinka Shonibare MBE was born in London and moved to Nigeria at the age of three. He returned to London to study Fine Art, first at Byam School of Art and then at Goldsmiths College, where he received his MFA. Shonibare's work explores issues of race and class through the media of painting, sculpture, photography and film. His proposal, Avenue of Peace, is a memorial walkway, sculpture, and water feature. This interactive memorial engages the public with the story of the Kings' lives and mission, through a series of 22 inscribed benches and an app that visitors can download. The public is invited to take a journey along the avenue and sit on the stone benches lining the walkway to learn about the couple and their histories. A White Pine, called the "Tree of Peace" by indigenous peoples of New England, will symbolize the couple's enduring values, whilst deciduous trees will mark the passing of time by changing color with the rest of the park. Toward the center of the avenue will stand a tall fountain covered in colorful mosaic, set in the middle of a continuous oval pool lined with black granite. The mosaic design incorporates the couple's names alongside olive branches that will remind viewers of peace. As visitors approach from the east side, they learn about Coretta's life, and the west side narrates Dr. King's early life and his journey to Boston. The memorial as a walk will evoke the long marches they both made for peace.

Adam Pendleton / Adjaye Associates / David Reinfurt / FuturePace / Gilbane Boston

Artist Adam Pendleton is known for his conceptual practice, which encompasses painting, sculpture, writing, film, and performance. Future\Pace is an international cultural partnership between Pace Gallery and FutureCity innovating multidisciplinary projects for art in the public realm. Architect David Adjaye's broad range of influences, ingenious use of materials, and sculptural ability have established him as an architect with an artist's sensibility and vision. David Reinfurt, an independent graphic designer, was the lead designer for the New York City MTA Metrocard vending machine interface and currently teaches at Princeton University. Their proposal is informed by Dr. King's final speech, "I've Been to the Mountaintop." The memorial is an overlook in black stone, projecting out from Beacon Street to embrace and overlook the Common below. From the summit of the memorial, visitors are invited to regard America's oldest city park and new mountainous sculptures below, which together compose a radical amphitheater. The open structure bridges over the Common's walking path. It is accompanied by a gentle handicap-accessible ramp which leads visitors from the upper street-level down to the lower-level of the existing walking path. On the lawn are sloped stone sculptures engraved with the words of the Kings  that act as terrain and provide seating. The top surfaces of the stone memorial are engraved with text from their speeches. In addition, an integrated passive digital platform for mobile devices provides annotated transcripts and audio of the Kings' speeches, along with images, unlocking a deeper dive into the Kings' powerful messages.

Barbara Chase-Riboud

Barbara Chase-Riboud has been creating abstract art for over 50 years, and has developed her own particular innovation on the bronze sculpture method by creating thin sheets of wax that she could bend, fold, meld, or sever to produce large-scale sculptures comprised of ribbons of bronze and aluminum. She later added fiber to these metal elements to create some of her most renowned works - among which were a group of 20 sculptures memorializing Malcolm X and his transformation "from a convict to a world leader." Her Empty Pulpit Monument dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King is made of light, stone and bronze. The truncated stone pyramid represents their mission and collaboration, and the searchlight beacon represents their message from the top of the mountain they climbed together. The Memorial is inspired by a 17th century wooden pulpit, resembling that of the first Martin Luther and symbolizing MLK Jr.'s silenced voice. The Indian granite serves as homage to Gandhi's non-violence movement and inside the passageway is engraved a historic lineage of the diaspora. The floor under the arch repeats the iconic "We shall overcome" slogan. Carved on the back of the monument is their most powerful quote, "I have decided to stick with LOVE, HATE is too great a burden to bear." A series of "waves", green rolling hills where the public can roam, will surround the memorial. Additional MLK and CSK quotations on bronze plaques will be embedded in the hills.

Hank Willis Thomas with MASS Design Group

Hank Willis Thomas is a conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to identity, history and popular culture. His work has been exhibited throughout the U.S. and abroad, including the International Center of Photography, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. MASS Design Group designs built environments that seek to improve people's lives in measurable ways and are infused by the potential to promote justice and human dignity. Based in Boston and Kigali, Rwanda, MASS forces the building process to engage with end stakeholders, and become a catalyst for hope and change in physical space. Their proposed memorial, The Embrace, is overwhelmingly simple and accessible: it is about what we share, not what sets us apart. Beneath the 22-foot-high arms of Dr. King and Coretta Scott, passersby will be reminded of our shared human connection. The memorial will envelop participants, allowing them to be simultaneously vulnerable and protected. By highlighting the act of embrace, this sculpture shifts the emphasis from singular hero worship to collective action, imploring those curious enough to investigate closer. The Embrace will be a mirror finish bronze, reflecting the changing natural environment of the park and the viewers themselves. Together, the Capitol, The Embrace, and the Bandstand create an axis that leads to the proposed King Educational Center in Dudley Square. A wall bearing the iconic image that inspired The Embrace will accentuate the exterior facade and mark the gateway to Dudley Square.

"The King Memorial will engage Bostonians in civic discourse about our shared history," said Kara Elliott-Ortega, Chief of Arts and Culture for the City of Boston. "Each one of these final proposals creates opportunities for the public to reflect not only on the legacy of the Kings, but also on the ability we all have to enact change in our communities."

About MLK Boston

MLK Boston is a non-profit working closely with the City of Boston to bring a world-class MLK Memorial to Boston, and to sponsor local events and discussions to bring his words to life. It is co-chaired by Paul English and Reverend Liz Walker. For more information, go to: www.mlkboston.org