Ends on September 8, 2019



The City of New York seeks artists interested in creating public monuments that honors women’s history. If you are such an artist, please APPLY to this open call.


On June 20, 2018 First Lady Chirlane McCray, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen and the Department of Cultural Affairs announced She Built NYC, a new 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. Through women.nyc, members of the public submitted nearly 2,000 nominations of women, groups of women, and events in women’s history that significantly impacted New York City. To qualify, events must have happened at least 20 years ago; 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 five trailblazing women whose extraordinary contributions forever changed New York City. With the memorial to Shirley Chisholm in Brooklyn well underway addition memorials of Billie Holiday, Elizabeth Jennings Graham, Dr. Helen Rodriguez Trías, and Katherine Walker will be installed throughout the city’s five boroughs. They are the result of She Built NYC, a campaign launched to honor women who have shaped New York City while addressing the absence of female monuments in our public spaces.

She Built NYC builds on the recommendations of the Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments, and Markers to expand the stories, histories, and narratives currently represented on public property in New York. These representations have historically failed to reflect the trailblazing women and non-binary individuals that have contributed to the City. Mayor Bill de Blasio, through the Department of Cultural Affairs, has committed up to $10 million over the next four years to commissioning new permanent public monuments and commemorations. 


Billie Holiday (Born Eleanora Fagan Gough, 1915-1959) 

Is among the world’s preeminent jazz singers. Her career elevated New York’s ‘swing sing’ jazz scene to international prominence while challenging racial barriers. One of the first black women to sing with a white orchestra, Holiday struck out on her own with “Strange Fruit,” a protest song about lynching. Her career was recognized with four posthumous Grammy Awards and induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Holiday’s statue will be placed near Queens Borough Hall.

Location: Queens

Elizabeth Jennings Graham (1827-1901) 

Challenged racial segregation well before the Civil Rights Movement when, on July 16, 1854, she boarded a streetcar that prohibited black passengers and refused to leave until forcibly removed by the police. Graham later won $225 in damages after successfully suing the Third Avenue Railroad Company, the conductor, and the streetcar driver. Her landmark case was the first step toward ending transit segregation in the City. Graham’s monument will be erected next to Grand Central Station.

Location: Manhattan

Dr. Helen Rodriguez Trías (1929-2001) 

Was a pioneer in pediatrics and public health who was dedicated to issues related to reproductive rights and HIV/AIDS care and prevention. As a women’s rights advocate, she fought to end enforced sterilization and advocated for neonatal care for underserved people. She served as medical director of NY State Department of Health’s AIDS Institute and was the first Latina director of the American Public Health Association. In 2001, President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Citizens Medal. Rodriguez Trías’s statue will be erected at St. Mary’s Park in the Bronx.

Location: Bronx

Katherine Walker (1838-1941)

The keeper of Robbins Reef Lighthouse, is credited with saving the lives of at least 50 people and guiding countless vessels to safety through Kill Van Kull, the channel between Staten Island and Bayonne, NJ. She raised two children at the lighthouse, rowing them back and forth to attend school in Staten Island. Her story sheds light on women working in the city’s marine industry as well as her contributions to the infrastructure of the shipping industry, which was critical to the city’s economy for centuries. Walker’s statue will be erected at Staten Island Ferry Landing.

Location: Staten Island

Shirley Chisholm (1924-2005) 

Became the first black woman elected to Congress, where she represented New York’s 12th Congressional District for seven terms, from 1969 to 1983. She also became the first woman to win the Democratic Party’s nomination for president of the United States, in 1972. With a slogan of “unbought and unbossed,” Chisholm paved the way for other women to serve in the public sector. Her statue is being erected at the entrance to Prospect Park in Brooklyn.

Location: Brooklyn

*Project currently in Selection Phase Two


An advisory panel comprised of individuals representing a broad range of expertise and backgrounds will assess the nearly 2,000 public nominations and create a shortlist of up to five finalists for commemoration. This Request for Qualifications (RFQ) is to solicit artists or artist teams who are interested in being considered to design a permanent public monument to the selected woman, group of women, or event in women’s history that significantly impacted New York City. The City will match the selected woman, group of women, or event from the shortlist to one public site, and the artist chosen to design a monument will be determined through the City’s Percent for Art commissioning process.


The project budgets will range from $350K up to $1 million and must include all project costs, including but not limited to the following: artist’s fees, design services, community engagement, site preparation, engineering, fabrication, travel, transportation of the work to the site, insurance, permits, installation, documentation of the artwork, and contingency. 


Professional visual artists or artist teams, working in any and all media, legally authorized to work in the U.S., and who are at least 18 years of age, are eligible to apply. Employees of the City of New York, Committee members (as defined in the following section) and their family members are not eligible to apply. If applying as an artist team, please identify the team member who will serve as the lead artist.

By applying, artists or artist teams could be considered for any of the upcoming 4 new memorials. 


Each selection process is organized into two phases:

Phase One is the RFQ in which artists or artist teams may respond with samples of past work and supplementary materials to be considered for the She Built NYC commission. The City, in partnership with an advisory committee of outside arts and design professionals (the “Committee”), will select artists to proceed to Phase Two of the open call (the “Finalists”). 

Phase Two is a Request for Conceptual Designs in which Finalists will submit a conceptual design for final review by the Committee. Finalists will receive a $1,500 honorarium for completion of a conceptual design in response to the Request for Conceptual Designs. One artist will be selected by the Committee from Phase Two to finalize designs, fabricate and install the artwork in partnership with the City (the “Selected Artist”).

Phase One: Request for Qualifications

As part of Phase One, the City invites artists or artist teams to submit examples of past work for the Committee to review. Eligibility is based upon artistic merit as evidenced in previous work, though the artist or artist team need not have completed a prior permanent public commission. 

There is no submission fee. Submissions must be made online through https://nyculture.submittable.com/submit

Submission Materials

Artists must submit all of the following materials for consideration: 

· Statement of Interest (250 words max)

Provide a narrative description of your interest in the commission and your qualifications for undertaking such a project; how your art practice and process can be translated to this project and how you might approach this project. If you are applying as an artist team, your statement of interest should reflect the work and approach of the team.

· Artist’s Statement (250 words max)

Provide a narrative description of your past work and current practice, including reference to submitted work samples, as relevant.

· Resume or CV (2 pages max)

Provide a current resume or CV, highlighting artistic excellence, any teaching experience, community engagement work, and/or experience working with multiple stakeholders. Be sure to include any relevant public or private commissioning experience. If you are applying as an artist team, combine your information into a two-page document that summarizes the team members’ qualifications. For example, a four-member team may choose to include a half-page bio for each team member.

· References

Provide the name, phone number and email addresses of two (2) professional references that have experience working with you as a partner or client on a creative project. Please indicate your relationship to each reference.

· Work Samples

Provide 10 images of completed work. Images should be from 70 - 100 dpi. If you have video of your work that is relevant to this project (i.e. a kinetic sculpture or sound element), submit a PDF with a link to the video. Each video PDF link will count as one of your 10 images. Each video may be no longer than 3 minutes. If you are applying as an artist team, designate one artist to be the team leader to submit your information, along with team member(s) images and resume/bio(s). Submissions from artist teams should reflect samples from each artist on the team, and not exceed the overall submission limit of 10 images. 

· Work Sample List

Provide a list of submitted work, including title, date, materials and dimensions, locations, and/or running times. Include 1-2 sentence descriptions as needed.

Phase Two: Request for Conceptual Designs 

As part of Phase Two, the City will invite the selected Finalists to submit conceptual proposals for review by the Committee. Finalists will receive an honorarium of $1,500 for submission of a conceptual proposal regardless of the number of concepts submitted. 

Percent for Art aspires to commission artwork of the highest caliber possible, and to set a national example for public art commissioning, while reflecting contemporary art practices. The conceptual proposals will be judged against the following criteria: 

· Appropriateness of each artist’s approach to the site’s architecture, function, and users;

· Skilled craftsmanship;

· Clarity of artistic vision;

· Consideration of the cost and durability of the artist’s chosen materials; and

· That the artist’s public commission is true to his/her/their sensibility.


Please direct all inquiries regarding this open call to Percent@culture.nyc.gov.