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NYC Holds Open Call for Artists to Create Monument for Two Iconic LGBTQ Activists

What to Know

  • NYC holding open call for artists interested in creating public monument honoring 2 iconic activists who had deep impact in LGBTQ community
  • a permanent monument honoring LGBTQ activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera will eventually be unveiled
  • The final day for artists to apply for consideration and submit their proposals is Oct. 9

New York City is holding an open call for artists who are interested in creating a public monument that honors two iconic activists who had a deep impact in the LGBTQ community. The city notes this is the first permanent public art work honoring the legacy of transgender individuals.

Last year, First Lady Chirlane McCray, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen and the Department of Cultural Affairs announced She Built NYC, an effort to commission a public monument or artwork that honors women’s history in New York City. The effort kicked off with an open call for nominations from the public.

Nearly 2,000 nominations of women, groups of women and events in women’s history that significantly impacted New York City were submitted for consideration, according to officials. To qualify, events must have happened at least 20 years ago and nominated individuals must be known for an event, movement or action that took place at least 20 years ago and must no longer be living.

As a result of this process, She Built NYC is commissioning public art works to honor seven trailblazing women whose extraordinary contributions changed New York City.

With the memorial to Shirley Chisholm in Brooklyn underway, additional memorials of Billie Holiday, Elizabeth Jennings Graham, Dr. Helen Rodriguez Trías and Katherine Walker will be installed throughout the city’s five boroughs. Additionally, a permanent monument honoring LGBTQ activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera will eventually be unveiled.

Johnson and Rivera founded STAR, a housing and support organization for homeless LGBTQ youth and sex workers, the city says. They were also leaders in the Stonewall Uprising and lifelong advocates for LGBTQ rights, particularly around racial and economic justice for LGBTQ people experiencing homelessness and poverty, the city notes.

In addition to Johnson’s and Rivera’s work and advocacy for LGBTQ, homeless and HIV positive youth – as well as young people of color who were marginalized by broader LGBTQ rights efforts - they were also early pioneers in disability justice efforts, particularly around healthcare access for all.

A New Jersey native, Johnson was an activist whose involvement in the Stonewall Uprising, which is celebrating its 50 anniversary this year, helped pave the way toward transgender acceptance. Though she struggled with homelessness, Johnson devoted her life to advocating for gay and transgender street youth, sex workers and people in prison, the city notes.

Following Stonewall, she and Rivera co-founded STAR, the first shelter for LGBTQ youth in North America.

Johnson’s body was found in the Hudson River in 1992, the city says. Her cause of death remains unsolved.

Rivera, who passed away in 2002, was abandoned by her father at birth in 1951 and orphaned at the age of 3 when her mother died by suicide. Rivera was subsequently raised by her Venezuelan grandmother in New York City but ran away at age 11 due to criticism of her “gender-defying ways,” the city notes, adding that she survived living on the streets by working as a child prostitute before a community of drag queens took her under their wing and cared for her.

Rivera eventually met Johnson in 1963. In 2001, Rivera resurrected STAR to advocate for pieces of legislation including NYC’s Transgender Rights Bill, the city notes. She died of complications from liver cancer on Feb. 19, 2002.

Rivera, who is also of Puerto Rican descent, was posthumously honored during this year’s Puerto Rican Day Parade.

According to the city, the estimated budget for the monument is $750,000 and must include all project costs.

The final day for artists to apply for consideration and submit their proposals is Oct. 9.

For more information on the application process, click here.

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