2021 marked the 100 year anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre – one of the ugliest events in American history, where a white mob destroyed the affluent Black neighborhood of Greenwood, dubbed “Black Wall Street,” for its thriving economic power. Hundreds were killed in the attack. More than 10,000 people were left homeless overnight, and the neighborhood was razed. This massacre led to years of silence and shame, suppressing the history for the following decades. The residents of Greenwood rebuilt their community, but it was ultimately destroyed due to disinvestment and urban renewal efforts — which placed the I-22 highway in the middle of Greenwood.
To commemorate this history and honor Greenwood, the City of Tulsa and the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission applied for the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge. Their winning concept, “The Greenwood Art Project,” features dozens of temporary public art works celebrating and commemorating this community’s history, present, and future.
The Public Art Challenge is a Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative encouraging cities to work with artists to create temporary public art projects that celebrate creativity, enhance urban identity, encourage public-private collaborations, and address significant civic issues.
The MacArthur Award-winning artist, Rick Lowe worked with local artists to showcase the legacy and resilience of Greenwood. Lowe previously founded Project Row Houses, a community platform that engages residents, artists, and businesses in Houston’s Historic Third Ward, one of the city’s oldest Black neighborhoods through community initiatives, art programs, and neighborhood development activities.
In this episode – which is part of a series about how memorials, monuments, and temporary pieces can be more reflective of our society – Stephanie Dockery from the Bloomberg Philanthropies Arts team sits down with Rick Lowe for a conversation around community-centered public art projects. They discuss the importance of creating community through public art, what they’ve learned from working with the City of Tulsa on the Greenwood Art Project, and how cities can implement art as a catalyst for community healing.
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For more from our series about how memorials, museums, and temporary installations can be more reflective of our society, we recommend:
For more about Greenwood, we recommend: