March 4, 2021


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Newark, NJ – March 4, 2021 – Mayor Ras J. Baraka today named the five finalists who have been chosen to propose designs for the new Harriet Tubman Monument Project. The city intends to rename Washington Park to Tubman Square in 2022 when the new monument will be installed, replacing the statue of Christopher Columbus that was removed in June 2020. The heroic abolitionist made Newark an important stop on the Underground Railroad as she personally led enslaved African-Americans out of the South to freedom.

“Harriet Tubman’s courage, valor, activism, and spirit of self-sacrifice made her a role model in times of civil unrest and Civil War. She personally led runaway slaves through Newark, working with local abolitionists to hide them from slave-catchers in our churches. Her entire life speaks to us today, teaching us about unity and selflessness in time of struggle,” Mayor Baraka said. “The monument will serve as encouragement to our present and future generations, allowing them to draw inspiration from the artists who will put a modern view on Ms. Tubman’s life and works.”

The finalists selected are five critically acclaimed artists: Abigail DeVille, Dread Scott, Jules Arthur, Nina Cooke John, and Vinnie Bagwell. See artist bios below.

The finalists were recommended by a diverse 14-member jury of art experts, historians, and community stakeholders led by the City of Newark’s Arts and Cultural Affairs Director fayemi shakur. The jury members’ names and bios can be found here.  

Each finalist will receive an honorarium to complete a conceptual design for the monument this Spring. The artists’ designs will be shared with Newark residents to provide feedback, which jurors will also take into consideration. Additionally, the winning artist will be paired with a Newark-based artist to work with as an apprentice, assisting with research and community engagement on the project.

“I am absolutely thrilled to see these trailblazer artists envision an enduring tribute to Harriet Tubman here in Newark,” said selection committee member, cultural critic, and Rutgers University-Newark Professor Salamishah Tillet. “That Ms. Tubman blessed our city on one of her many emancipation journeys is a history that we should celebrate, honor, and learn from as we work towards making her freedom dreams a reality for all Newarkers today.”

The Harriet Tubman Monument Project aligns with the mission of the Division of Arts and Cultural Affairs to develop a world-class public art program for the City of Newark.

Artist bios:

Abigail DeVille was born in 1981 in New York City. Maintaining a long-standing interest in marginalized people and places, Ms. DeVille creates site-specific immersive installations and large sculptures designed to bring attention to these forgotten stories. Her most recent exhibition was “Light of Freedom,” Madison Square Park Conservancy (2020).

Dread Scott is a visual artist whose work has been exhibited at the Whitney Museum and MoMA PS1. In 2019, 350 people marched on levees on the outskirts of New Orleans as part of his community-engaged artwork Slave Rebellion Reenactment (2019), which reenacted the largest rebellion of enslaved people in US history.

Jules Arthur was born in St. Louis, MO and moved to New York City to attend The School of Visual Arts where he received a B.F.A. with honors in 1999. He creates visual testimonies to the lives and legacies of those who have had a significant cultural impact. His work features a range of distinguished figures—athletes, activists, abolitionists, musicians, tradesmen, and blue-collar workers—each one of them illuminated through his detailed artistry.  

Nina Cooke John is the founding principal of Studio Cooke John Architecture and Design, a multidisciplinary design studio that values place-making as a way to transform relationships between people and the built environment. Working at the scale of the human body; individually or collectively, in the home or on the street, responding to how we use space in our everyday lives, whether in the family unit or as a community.

Vinnie Bagwell is an American representational-figurative sculptor who uses bas-relief techniques as visual narratives to expend her storytelling, giving deeper meaning to the legacies of marginalized people of color. She created the first sculpture of a contemporary African-American woman to be commissioned by a municipality in 1996 and has won numerous public-art commissions and awards around the United States.

In addition, artist headshots can be found here.