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Call for Papers: Racial Reckoning and Public Monuments to African Americans at American Colleges and Universities
Public Art Dialogue-sponsored session, 2023 CAA Annual Conference
Chair: Evie Terrono, Randolph-Macon College
Institutions of higher learning across the United States have undertaken lengthy, multi-faceted, and expansive studies of the contributions of enslaved populations to the building of their institutions, to their institutional well-being, and the day-to day comforts of their faculty and their students. Along with public acknowledgments of their complicity to the maintenance and perpetuation of slavery, institutions have scrutinized their public symbolic markers, have removed offensive and injurious monuments, and have begun to mark their public landscape with monuments to the enslaved. In 2005, the Unsung Founders Memorial commemorating enslaved and free African Americans who worked at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was dedicated as a gift from the class of 2002, in opposition to the Silent Sam memorial then standing on university grounds. In 2017, on its bicentennial commemoration, Harvard Law School, unveiled a plaque commemorating the names of the enslaved who belonged to Isaac Royall, Jr, the sugar-plantation owner whose fortunes financed its establishment. Prompted by student activism, the University of Virginia realized and unveiled in 2021, its memorial to the thousands of enslaved individuals who served the institution. The College of William and Mary is in the process of realizing its own monument to the enslaved as part of its Lemon Project named after Lemon, an enslaved man at the institution. Other institutions across the South are currently deliberating comparable commemorative gestures to recognize enslaved populations or other significant historical moments of Black contributions. Often the result of shared governance and multifaceted community participation, including in some cases descendant communities, these monumental sites provide space for both memorializing and restoring the lives of African Americans across institutional histories, while setting spaces for teaching and for racial healing and reconciliation. This panel seeks papers that explore the complexities and the problematics of public commemorative sites to African Americans on university and college grounds, the processes and the agents that participate in the process, debates and confrontations surrounding such undertakings and the ideological implications and didactic possibilities of such restorative undertakings.
Paper abstracts are due by August 31, 2022. For more information on the submission process, and the conference in general, see https://caa.confex.com/caa/2023/cfp.cgi
Notions of Value in Public Art
Public Art Dialogue-sponsored session, 2022 CAA Annual Conference
A discourse regarding the value of public art may be framed by the Marxian terms use value and exchange value. Use value pertains to the human needs that public art fulfills such as inspiring individual curiosity and wonder, engendering civic engagement and community pride, and fostering a shared cultural heritage. Debates about whether public art’s value lies predominantly within the aesthetic realm or within the realm of social engagement bring other notions of use value to the assessment of public art. Exchange value, being monetarily based, defines public art by the dollar amount it would fetch on the market and contributes to claims of public art’s role in economic revitalization. When the focus on exchange value eclipses public art’s harder-to define, yet more enriching use value, public audiences suffer. In 2018, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed to sell Kerry James Marshall’s public library mural, Knowledge and Wonder, enticed by the large profit the city could gain from the sale. He only withdrew the mural from auction after others mounted a public campaign that highlighted the long-term use value the mural sustains for everyday users of the library. We seek paper proposals that address the question of how public art connects to various notions of value as they pertain to larger political and social conditions in the United States and internationally. If public art is a sign of society’s investment in creating public value, in what ways can we work to define, explore, and recenter the human use value of public art?
Caitlin Bruce, University of Pittsburgh: Muraleon: Urban Art and Good Vibrations in Muraleon
Robin Owen Joyce, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University: Putting Abstraction to Work: Radio Station Murals and Mechanized Labor
Kim Miller, Wheaton College: Violence, Value, and Representations of Women in South Africa’s Public Sphere
Respondent: Andrew Wasserman, American University