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Community Organizations Coming Together to Honor Douglass

A series of life-size monuments of Frederick Douglass, inspired by the Stanley W. Edwards statue in Highland Park, have been placed at locations that are historically significant to his life in Rochester.

The Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester (MAG), the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commemoration Committee, and St. John Fisher College announced today a joint partnership to help honor the life and legacy of the visionary African American Frederick Douglass, whose 25 years in Rochester resulted in some of the abolitionist and freed slave’s most important work.

In recognition of his accomplishments and ongoing inspiration, MAG will display a monument of Douglass as part of Re-Energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass, a public art project, exhibition, and community-wide reflection commemorating the 200th anniversary of Douglass’ birth and his extraordinary work on behalf of human rights and social justice.

To date, the project has installed 12 monuments at sites around Rochester with historical connections to Douglass. Re-Energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass is a collaboration between its lead partners, Rochester Community Media Center and Rochester Contemporary Art Center, and is realized in cooperation with the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, as well as with a wide range of other community members and organizations. Re-Energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass is organized under the auspices of the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commemoration Committee. This monument is sponsored by MAG and St. John Fisher College.

The Douglass monument, created by artist Olivia Kim, will be displayed at MAG simultaneously with the exhibition Lessons of the Hour—Frederick Douglass, which features a 10-screen film installation by artist Isaac Julien inspired by episodes in the life of Douglass. Both the monument and the Isaac Julien exhibition will be on view at MAG from March 3–May 12, 2019.

“Frederick Douglass is a towering figure in our nation’s history and MAG is grateful to have the opportunity to help steward his legacy,” said MAG Mary W. and Donald R. Clark Director Jonathan P. Binstock. “For the last 2-1/2 years MAG has been working with artist Isaac Julien on a major media-art commission, a meditation on the life, words, and actions of Douglass. We are proud to partner with St. John Fisher College and the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commemoration Committee to showcase a monument from the Re-Energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass public art project.”

“Frederick Douglass is one of the great civic leaders in Rochester history and his impact continues to this day. I applaud the ongoing work of the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commemoration Committee, and its efforts to keep Douglass at the forefront of Rochester’s story. We are honored to partner with the Committee and the Memorial Art Gallery in celebration of this distinguished Rochesterian as we work together to move forward in this community conversation about race, equity, and inclusion,” said Fisher President Gerard J. Rooney, Ph.D.

A companion website for Re-Energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass may be found at DouglassTour.com. The website offers interpretive information, including a self-guided walking/driving tour map, biographical information, and other resources. The monuments that comprise this project, inspired by the Stanley W. Edwards statue of Frederick Douglass in Highland Park, incorporate a casting of the hands of Kenneth B. Morris, Jr., the great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass—an effort to help connect the past with the present, and to point the way to the future.

“Important issues raised by Frederick Douglass still resonate two hundred years since his birth; and perhaps discovering more about Douglass will help us discover more about, think more about, and do more about the things we still struggle with today,” said Carvin Eison, director of the Re-Energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass project. Eison, who is general manager of RCTV Community Media Center, and Associate Professor of Journalism, Broadcasting and Public Relations at The College at Brockport, is also a member of the board of directors of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives.

“This project reminds all of us that we continue to be inspired by Douglass—inspired by his legacy—and urges us to take a critical look at how we as a city, and perhaps more broadly as a nation, remember this remarkable man and his influence,” said Re-Energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass project co-director Bleu Cease. Cease is the Executive Director of Rochester Contemporary Art Center.

“We want to thank MAG and St. John Fisher College for their support, and for their recognition that this project has been widely embraced by our community, and has come to mean a great deal to a great many,” finished Eison.

Save the Date — Public Discussion
The Memorial Art Gallery, St. John Fisher College, and the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commemoration Committee will host a community conversation regarding Frederick Douglass and his legacy, public art, and how the ideas Douglass expressed in his life’s work resonate in today’s world. The public conversation will take place at MAG on Wednesday April 17 at 7:00 pm.