In Portland and across the country, communities have been reassessing monuments criticized as symbols of historical oppression. What started as a movement to remove Confederate symbols in the American South has expanded more recently to a reckoning over European colonization and the oppression of Black and Indigenous people – including the removal of sculptures of Harvey Scott, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Rough Rider Theodore Roosevelt and “Promised Land” here in Portland in 2020.
In the City’s supplemental budget approved last month, Portland City Council allocated $50,000 for a community-based process that will help City Council decide what to do with these five statues. The funds will be used to hire a consultant to design and conduct a public process, with extensive engagement in communities that are underrepresented in the City’s public art collection to ensure that all voices are heard.
The project, led by the Office of Commissioner Carmen Rubio, will help City Council make decisions about the monuments currently in question, and also inform new public policies and procedures for assessing monuments and memorials in the future. Stakeholder bureaus like Portland Parks & Recreation, as well as the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC), will be actively involved in this work throughout next spring and summer.
If you have comments, questions, ideas or concerns about these monuments or anything related to the City’s public art collection in the meantime, please contact email@example.com. We also recommend the following articles and resources:
- A conversation about public art and monuments with David Harrelson, cultural resources department manager for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde; visual artist Paula Wilson; and artist Jess Perlitz, associate professor of sculpture at Lewis & Clark College. Courtesy of Think Out Loud on OPB.
- Street Roots article: "Art exhibit imagines what can replace Oregon’s toppled monuments," by Karly Quadros.
- National Monument Audit – a comprehensive assessment of monuments across the United States, conducted by Monument Lab in Philadelphia and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.