New York City today announced She Built NYC, a new initiative to commission a public monument or artwork on city property with a focus on women’s history. The program—which was inaugurated by the Mayor’s Office and the Department of Cultural Affairs—follows recommendations from the Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments, and Markers, a commission initiated “to expand the stories, histories, and narratives represented on public property in New York.” As a press release for She Built NYC stated, “These representations have historically failed to reflect the multiplicity of people that have contributed to the city throughout history.” With a goal to correct for the past, the Department of Cultural Affairs has committed up to $10 million for new monuments and works.
Anyone can nominate women or historical events for consideration at the website for Women.nyc; the deadline for suggestions is August 1. After reviewing the nominations, an advisory panel will consult with the Department of Cultural Affairs on the subject of a monument and an artist to create it, to be announced in January.
The new initiative follows increasing protest among New Yorkers over representational imbalance within public works. As noted in a 2017 Gothamist report on the subject, “In Central Park, the most-visited urban park in the country, there are 23 historical male statues, but the sole female representations are either fictional characters, like Alice and Mother Goose, or nameless props, like nymphs and angels.”
Earlier this year, a statue dedicated in 1894 in Harlem was removed in the wake of protests over its subject: J. Marion Sims, a doctor whose work drew in part on experiments on enslaved black women.