The Metropolis of Philadelphia has come underneath hearth for commissioning a statue of Harriet Tubman from a white sculptor with out opening the sector of competitors to different artists, together with these of coloration. After Wesley Wofford’s Harriet Tubman: The Journey to Freedom, a touring bronze sculpture depicting the famed abolitionist main a baby by the hand, generated great optimistic consideration throughout its three-month keep exterior Philly’s Metropolis Corridor earlier this 12 months, the town’s Workplace of Arts, Tradition and the Artistic Financial system (aka Artistic Philadelphia) supplied Wofford a $500,000 fee to create an identical, everlasting monument to face in the identical place.
Following the awarding of the fee, metropolis officers despatched out a public survey searching for opinions from members of the general public in regard to the challenge, with a deadline of July 13. Throughout a digital assembly on the subject, held by Artistic Philadelphia on June 15, a lot of Black artists expressed disappointment that the fee had gone to a white artist. Dissenting opinions had been divided amongst those that believed the monument to Tubman—who escaped enslavement in mid-nineteenth-century Maryland and risked her life to guide greater than seventy folks to freedom by way of the Underground Railroad earlier than turning into a Civil Warfare hero for her efforts to free some seven hundred enslaved folks in North Carolina—must be created by a Black individual, and those that had been open to an individual of any race creating the monument, as long as this artist was chosen by way of an open competitors.
“As an artist, it’s hurtful and it’s traumatizing,” textile artist Dee Jones defined in the course of the assembly. “If it was an open name and Wesley was chosen, it will be high quality. However as a result of the method wasn’t open, that’s the large difficulty.”
Maisha Sullivan-Ongoza, of the Sankofa Artisans Guild, stated she and others felt “cheated” by the commissioning course of and contended that Tubman “risked life and limb to be free in order that nobody white individual would profit off her individual. And now we have now somebody white benefiting off of her.”
Michelle Strongfields, a health care provider and Black neighborhood well being organizer, demanded that Wofford resign the fee as a way to open the sector to competitors, whereas Marguerite Anglin, Philadelphia’s public artwork director, asserted that “a part of . . . therapeutic is not only Black artists solely telling Black tales. We want America to embrace Black tales,” she continued. “We want everybody to know our tales.”
Kelly Lee, the town’s chief cultural officer and the chief director of Artistic Philadelphia, advised the Philadelphia Inquirer that the town usually phases open requires public artwork commissions and that it actively seeks to incorporate artists of coloration, together with Black artists. Lee defined that the town had determined to rent Wofford to create a everlasting monument to Tubman after seeing the response the touring statue of the enduring abolitionist engendered.