Imagine a monument to New Orleans.
Paper Monuments is a public art and public history project designed to elevate the voices of the people of New Orleans, as a critical process towards creating new narratives and symbols of our city that represent our collective vision, and to honor the erased histories of the people, places, movements, and events that have made up the past 300 years as we look to the future.
The core values of Paper Monuments are equity, integrity, and collaboration. We envision the role of our team as coordinating the efforts and supporting the visions of a broad collective of residents, scholars, artists, and activists.
In centering equity, we have set an honorarium for artwork that recognizes the value of our local visual artists, often overlooked in discussions of New Orleans' cultural economy and we are working to ensure that both the content and the creators of all our pieces reflect the diverse populations of our city.
In centering integrity, we have committed to honor all public proposal submissions, and to include them in archives and maps, knowing that some may be offensive or abusive. We have provided opportunity for all community members to speak at our events to date, and will continue to do so throughout our process.
In centering collaboration, we have built relationships with small business owners throughout the city to distribute posters while helping to drive new customers to their stores. We have partnered with public institutions such as the University of New Orleans and the New Orleans Public Library to provide research and archival support locally, and are part of an emerging cohort of organizations and projects across the country working to reconsider the role of public art and public history in our cities.
March 12, 2018
Since Mayor Landrieu’s announcement last week that Colloqate Design’s Paper Monuments process would be incorporated into the City’s planning for the future of Lee Circle, our team has been working to address many questions and concerns raised by those encountering the project for the first time. We would like to take this opportunity to introduce ourselves, address the most pressing of these questions, and to clarify the intent and approach of Paper Monuments.
We recognize that for the Mayor, and for many of our citizens, the question of what will replace the monument at Lee Circle is a pressing concern, and we are honored to be considered part of the process by which the City will be making those decisions. For Paper Monuments, the question of a singular monument or of a singular location is less important than our conviction that all residents have a right to this city, and an inherent role in shaping the place in which we all live, work, learn and grow together.
While our role in the City’s process remains undefined, Colloqate Design comes to this work humbly and with reverence for the decades of work by activists, educators and community leaders to challenge symbols and systems of oppression and exclusion while expanding our collective understanding of New Orleans.
Our team, a collective of designers, artists, urbanists, and educators, has been working since July 2017 to pair scholarly narratives and locally commissioned artwork in telling the stories that are too often lost or obscured when New Orleans history is recounted. These are the stories of New Orleanians who were poor and working-class. Black and brown. Women and children. Lesbian, gay, trans, and queer. Immigrants and refugees. Those who fought battles for inclusion and justice; those who worked to improve lives and bring hope, but who were and are unlikely to be elevated on any pedestal. At the same time, our team has been creating events and engagement opportunities across the city; reaching a broad cross-section of New Orleans residents to listen to your answers to the question:
What is an appropriate monument for New Orleans today?
Our goal is a radically democratic one. We want every resident of New Orleans to have an opportunity to find voice in this process. Public proposals are the core of Paper Monuments’ process, a continually expanding pool of prospective monuments, memorials and public art that range from the intimate to the epic and tell the stories that are important to New Orleans’ residents. Paper Monuments’ goal is not to decide what individual belongs at the top of a pillar, but to join and expand a conversation about who and what we remember, what events have shaped our city and our lives, and what places and movements matter to us. These are the stories of events and movements that challenge our beliefs that historical change is brought about by the heroics of singular individuals. These are the stories that open doors to finding the heroic in each other and ourselves.
Over the next few months, in partnership with the Midlo Center for New Orleans Studies at the University of New Orleans, the New Orleans Public Library, Antenna Gallery, the Surdna Foundation, Foundation for Louisiana, and the Contemporary Arts Center, we hope to expand our project, creating a public gallery of artwork, working with New Orleans’ incredible artistic communities to create temporary installations all across the city that draw inspiration from your public proposals, and offering new opportunities to share our stories together.
We hope you’ll join us.
Colloqate Design/Paper Monuments Co-Directors:
Bryan C. Lee Jr.
Paper Monuments Core Team:
Nic Brierre Aziz
In case you weren't able to join us at Stories at the Crossroads, filmmaker Luisa Dantas beautifully captured the spirit of the event in the first of many videos documenting the process behind Paper Monuments.
We want to give a huge shoutout to the storytellers who spoke their monuments that night, including Sunni Patterson, Nic Aziz, John Hankins, Rebecca Snedeker, Phoebe Ferguson, and Tilman Hardy, as well as our awesome MC, Chris Lane.
This video is part of Surdna Foundation's ongoing video series on community engaged design. Paper Monuments is made possible through the generous support of the Surdna Foundation.