Where’s a King sit?

Downtown Greensboro is in a rush. The controversy over the Elm Street statue of Martin Luther King, Jr., and a proposed 9/11 memorial makes it clear. Development downtown is bubbling – to the point where people aren’t being consulted and decisions are being made in haste.

At center are Mayor Nancy Vaughan, Downtown Greensboro Inc.’s President Zack Matheny, and sculptor Jim Gallucci.

I’m coming at it the way I approach public art, by asking basic questions:

  • Who are we commemorating?
  • Why here?
  • Why now?

This is what’s been removed for casting in bronze. Bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. at Elm Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive. Photo from 2013. Artist: Wilbur Lee Mapp

In this regard, Elsewhere’s George Scheer was on point:

A 9/11 monument in this context, at this location, in this current political climate is really unsophisticated. Given the national conversation on the presence of confederate memorials, now is not the moment to move a civil rights monument and replace it with 9/11 memorial. It makes it appear that Greensboro is totally tone deaf.

We don’t need a giant memorial to 9/11 on Elm Street. I get that there were two people who died from Greensboro in the attacks. Maybe there would be a more appropriate way to remember them specifically, and tie the city to that national story. But the time is not now, and the place is not on a revitalized and busy Elm Street.

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