Home » Public art

Tag: Public art

What do we do about Baltimore’s Confederate monuments? City commission begins review of public Confederate monuments this week

Yesterday, Baltimore Heritage attended the first of four meetings for the Mayor’s Special Commission to Review Baltimore’s Public Confederate Monuments. Over the next six months, this commission plans to consider four public monuments:

  • Roger B. Taney Monument (1887)
  • Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument (1903)
  • Confederate Women’s Monument (1919)
  • Lee-Jackson Monument (1948)

Today’s meeting helped to define scope of the commission’s work and a process for moving forward. The commission is closely focused on these four public monuments—works that are owned by the city and located on public land. They have no plans to address the name of Lake Roland Park (an issue already being addressed by the Baltimore City Council).

Baltimore’s public art collection includes hundreds of statues, memorials and works of art found in neighborhoods across the city. Different works have been donated by individuals or groups, commissioned directly by Baltimore City, or supported by the 1% for art program. The city’s public art collection is managed by the Baltimore Public Art Commission (PAC) and the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP). Appropriately, the new special commission is made up of four representatives from CHAP, three from PAC, and a representative of the Mayor’s Office. For more on the membership of the commission read the Mayor’s announcement of the membership from September 3.

By January 2016, the commission expects to make a set of recommendations, informed by research, public comments, and deliberation, and laid out in a final report. For each monument, there are a range of possibilities:

  1. Keep the sculpture as it stands at present.
  2. Keep the sculpture with specific conditions. Conditions could include a recommendation to install new signage or some other intervention.
  3. Keep the sculpture in the city’s collection at a new location.
  4. Remove the sculpture and de-accession from the city’s collection.

Some may recall that this current discussion began in the wake of the tragic shooting in Charleston, South Carolina and the renewed efforts to reject symbols of the Confederacy for their links to white supremacy past and present. In Baltimore, the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Mount Royal Avenue was tagged on July 22 with the words “Black Lives Matter”—matching the well-publicized tagging of monuments in Charleston and beyond. A group of activists, including Marvin “Doc” Cheatham and others who had advocated against the Lee-Jackson Monument for years, staged a protest and press conference to draw attention to the troubling meaning of these statues. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and city staff quickly responded with the announcement of the special commission on June 30.

Other cities around the country are exploring many of the same challenges. After convening a task force in June, the University of Texas at Austin decided to deal with a set of troubling statues along the Main Mall with the full range of options: moving their statue of Jefferson Davis to UT’s Briscoe Center for American History, relocating their statue of Woodrow Wilson, and leaving four others in place. In Frederick, Maryland officials are considering removing a statue of Roger B. Taney and in Rockville, Montgomery County officials are already considering alternate locations for a monument to the Confederacy located in front of the county courthouse.

Baltimore Heritage supports the Mayor’s leadership in organizing this special commission to consider this issue carefully. We hope the commission meetings provide an opportunity for an open discussion about the legacies of the Civil War and the decades of racial discrimination that followed in Baltimore and across the state. The testimony from city residents today pointed to the importance of this issue to Baltimoreans. One person reminded the commission that the “Spirit of the Confederacy” on Mount Royal Avenue stands just outside the doors of the Midtown Academy and asked: what are we teaching our children? Another speaker, expressed a call for unity urging the commission to seek a more inclusive vision of Baltimore’s history that includes abolition as well as slavery.

Taney Monument, March 28, 2011. Monument City
Taney Monument, March 28, 2011. Monument City

We have put together a historic context on Baltimore’s Confederate memory and monuments that we have provided to the special commission and through our new Civil Rights heritage project. We encourage you to read the historic context and get informed about this issue. You can submit your testimony to the commission through their online contact form. The public is also welcome to attend upcoming commission meetings:

  • Thursday, October 29, 9:00 am
  • Tuesday, December 15, 5:00pm
  • Thursday, January 14, 10:00 am

For questions or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us and share your views on Baltimore’s Confederate monuments and their future.

Join the conversation about Baltimore’s Confederate Monuments Learn more about the history of the monuments and how you can submit comments

Courtesy Baltimore Commission to Review Baltimore’s Public Confederate Monuments.
Lee-Jackson Monument, 2015. Baltimore Commission to Review Baltimore’s Public Confederate Monuments.

Thank you to everyone who came out and joined our tour of Baltimore’s Confederate Monuments at Wyman Park Dell this past weekend. As I explained in my testimony before the Special Commission reviewing the city’s Confederate monuments on October 29, Baltimore Heritage supports the review process and is working educate the public about the history of the monuments. Our organization has not made any formal recommendation for what we think the commission should do about the monument. We think it is important for everyone with an interest in this issue to learn more and to add their voice to the ongoing discussion. To support this goal, we have put together a set of educational resources to help you prepare your comments or testimony.

What is the history of the monuments?

Confederate Monument, Mount Royal Terrace (c. 1906). Library of Congress
Confederate Monument, Mount Royal Terrace (c. 1906). Library of Congress

In September, Baltimore Heritage has published a detailed study on the history of the monuments with a particular focus on how race and politics shaped their meaning in the past and present. We also published our testimony from October 29 and our full tour notes from the December 5 walking tour. If you have any questions or suggestions, please let us know—we plan on continuing to revise and expand these materials in the months ahead. Additional profiles on the four monuments under review are available from the Special Commission.

Where are the monuments located?

We have also put together a map showing the four monuments selected for review and the broader collection of monuments, statues and historic sites related to the theme of Civil War memory and the Lost Cause.

What do the monuments look like?

Detail, Confederate Soldiers and Sailors MonumentThe staff of the Commission has shared their extensive photo documentation of all four monuments and we have uploaded these photographs to an album on Flickr so anyone can get a close look at the monuments from the general surroundings to the smallest details.

How do I send comments?

There are three ways to share your comments: send a letter by mail, send an email, or attend the public hearing on December 15. Please note that your comments become part of the public record and may be shared by the Commission as part of the process.

  1. To submit comments by email contact monuments.review@baltimorecity.gov or use the online contact form.
  2. To submit comments by mail, send a letter to the Commission to Review Baltimore’s Public Confederate Monuments c/o Eric Holcomb, 417 E. Fayette St. 8th floor, Baltimore, MD 21202.
  3. To testify at the public hearing on December 15, you should prepare your testimony in advance, sign-up before the meeting, and bring a printed copy of your testimony for the Commission. Find additional details about the public hearing on our calendar.

How do I prepare effective testimony?

For anyone interested in testifying at the meeting on December 15, we have six quick tips for making the most of your testimony:

  1. Introduce yourself
  2. Lead with your key message
  3. Make it personal
  4. Stick to the facts
  5. Keep it short
  6. Say thank you

Check out our expanded version of this guide including links to more related resources. The Special Commission has details about the process of signing up to testify and what to expect in their guide (PDF).

For questions about this issue, please feel free to contact me at pousson@baltimoreheritage.org or contact our director Johns Hopkins at 410-332-9992.

The words "Everyday Utopias" above a photo of the ladder at the edge of the former Pool No. 2 (now filled in and covered with grass)

Everyday Utopias: Druid Hill Park Exhibition Exhumes the Promises of a Once-Segregated Pool

Please join Maryland Institute College of Art’s (MICA) MFA program in Curatorial Practice and Baltimore City Recreation and Parks for the opening reception of Everyday Utopias, a public art installation at Pool No. 2 in Druid Hill Park. Everyday Utopias invites viewers to consider the promise of both real and imagined aspects of civic participation as they navigate their way through physical structures and spiritual spaces of the pool’s remains.

Read more