Revisioning the Future of Portland’s Monuments
In partnership with the City of Portland, Lewis & Clark helped develop recommendations for community engagement around several monuments that were toppled or removed during the 2020 protests following the murder of George Floyd. L&C also assisted in creating guidelines for considering new city monuments in the future.
The City of Portland, like much of the nation, is reckoning with its history–and also with its monuments. Everywhere, cities are asking: Whose faces and names should adorn our squares? Which historical narratives should give way to new interpretations? How should we make these decisions?
In January, the City Arts Program partnered with Lewis & Clark to form the Monuments Engagement Process Committee. Working together, committee members developed recommendations for considering how the City should lead community engagement around five monuments that were toppled or removed during the 2020 protests following the murder of George Floyd, as well as guidelines for considering new monuments in the future.
Jess Perlitz, associate professor of art and studio head of sculpture at Lewis & Clark. On July 19, Perlitz, along with Mack McFarland, public art project manager for the Regional Arts & Culture Council, presented the committee’s findings to Portland’s City Council. The City unanimously accepted the committee’s report, which recommended a robust community engagement process to determine the future of Portland’s monuments.The report process was led by
“This report advocates strongly for deep engagement that promotes hearing people’s voices,” said Perlitz. “We’re thinking about this as a moment in time when we can ask for more transparency in the way decisions are made, when we can think about how to hear voices that have not been included … it’s a moment when, in the face of incredibly polarized debate, we can seek to engage in difficult conversations.”
OPB’s “Think Out Loud” broadcast, which aired on July 26, 2023.Perlitz shared additional observations about the report findings as the featured guest of
Going forward, the City has accepted a $350,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation to support the continued work of the Portland Monuments Project. Portland was one of only nine municipalities to receive grant funding “to transform the nation’s commemorative landscape through public projects that more completely and accurately represent the municipality and complexity of American stories.”
Lewis & Clark President Robin Holmes-Sullivan voiced support for the City to accept the grant and embrace the work ahead.
“I commend Portland’s leadership, including Commissioners Carmen Rubio and Dan Ryan, for their oversight and engagement on this important issue,” said Holmes-Sullivan. “Portland is one of just a handful of cities that has been honored with a Mellon grant for this work. It’s an exciting opportunity for our city to have the resources to explore and implement best practices in engaging our community around the topics of monuments and memorialization. I think it puts Portland on the map as a city that works for–and embraces–civic discourse among its people.”
Along with Perlitz, Lewis & Clark provided additional expertise to Portland’s Monument Engagement Process Committee; members included Janet Bixby, associate dean of the graduate school; David Harrelson BA ’07; Reiko Hillyer, associate professor of history; Diana Leonard, associate professor of psychology; Mitch Reyes, professor of rhetoric and media studies; and Elizabeth Young, enterprise application administrator/developer.