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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.


In 2018, She Built NYC was launched to address the underrepresentation of women in the city’s public art collection by commissioning public monuments to honor women and women’s history in New York City. The four projects below were initially announced in March 2019, but stalled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in and never even got to the initial phase of planning. Thanks to the Adams administration, these four remaining projects are now being restarted, and an open call is being launched for artists to design them. She Built NYC will honor Katherine Walker in Staten Island, Billie Holiday in Queens, Elizabeth Jennings Graham in Manhattan, and Dr. Helen Rodriguez Trias in the Bronx. A fifth project honoring Shirley Chisholm in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park is already underway and received unanimous approval from the city’s Public Design Commission last year.

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.


The women being honored in this round of new monuments are: 

Katherine Walker (1838-1941)

Walker was the keeper of the Robbins Reef Lighthouse in Staten Island for 35 years. She is credited with saving the lives of at least 50 people and maintaining the light that guided countless ships to safe passage through Kill Van Kull, the shipping channel between Staten Island and Bayonne, New Jersey. One of the few female lighthouse keepers in United States history, she broke barriers in a male-dominated field and raised her two children at the lighthouse, rowing them back and forth to attend school on Staten Island. Walker’s story sheds light on the largely untold history of women working in New York City’s maritime industry. 

The Katherine Walker monument will be included in the ongoing development planned for Staten Island’s North Shore being spearheaded by New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). 

Billie Holiday (1915-1959) 

Born Eleanora Fagan Gough, Holiday is one of the most celebrated jazz singers of all time. Her career helped to define the New York emerging jazz scene and challenged racial barriers, becoming the first Black women to sing with a white orchestra. Holiday’s Strange Fruit, a powerful protest song about lynching, was named by Time Magazine “the song of the century.” Her career was recognized with a dozen Grammy Awards and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

The Billie Holiday monument will be built at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center, near the clubs she performed in and the neighborhood she called home. 

Elizabeth Jennings Graham (1827–1901) 

Graham challenged racial segregation a century before the modern Civil Rights Movement. On July 16, 1854, the 24-year-old schoolteacher boarded a streetcar at the intersection of Pearl and Chatham Streets, in what is now Park Row, that did not accept African Americans as passengers. When the conductor confronted her, she refused to leave until forcibly removed by the police. The city’s African-American community was outraged by the incident, and Graham sued the Third Avenue Railroad Company, the conductor, and the driver. The judge ruled in her favor, holding that “a colored person… had the same rights as others.” In addition to winning $225 in damages, Jennings’s case took the first step toward ending transit segregation in New York. By 1860, all of the city's streetcar lines were open to African Americans because of her efforts. In her later years, Jennings continued to teach, helping to start the first kindergarten in the city for Black children.

The Elizabeth Jennings Graham monument will be built near the route of the streetcar journey on which she made her courageous stand. 

Dr. Helen Rodríguez Trías (1929-2001) 

Dr. Rodríguez Trías was a pioneer in reproductive rights, and HIV/AIDS care and prevention. Dr. Rodríguez Trías’s work often advocated on behalf of women and children, especially those in poor and minority communities. She became the medical director of the New York State Department of Health’s AIDS Institute and the first Latinx director of the American Public Health Association. Dr. Rodríguez Trías was a recipient of the Presidential Citizen’s Medal for her work on behalf of women, children, people with HIV/AIDS, and the poor. Among her greatest legacies are shaping regulations that govern informed content for sterilizations and empowering low-income and minority women through the women’s health movement.

The Dr. Helen Rodriguez Trias monument will be built in a public-facing area at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln, where she was the head of the hospital’s pediatrics department and advocated for better medical care for the communities of color that the institution served.

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 $250K up to $750K 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. 

We use Submittable to accept and review our submissions.