Beyond Granite: Civic Engagement is Monumental

We look into how Washington, DC, is reimagining monuments and civic engagement in America’s most iconic public square.

“I feel like we’re at the beginning of a new evolution of how we’re going to be thinking about monuments of the future.”

—Teresa Durkin, Executive Vice President, Trust for the National Mall                 

The National Mall in Washington, DC, is home to an array of timeless monuments, attracting millions of visitors who travel from all over the world to witness the commemorations of the most pivotal leaders and moments in US history. 

But is America’s most iconic public square set in stone? Amidst this 700-acre landscape marked by statues of Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., have you considered what might be missing? Whose voices and histories would you like to see represented here? What if the commemoration of the American story were up to you? 

singer performing from the steps of the Lincoln memorial in front of the statueOpera singer Marian Anderson performs on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC, 1939. Photo: Getty Images / Hulton Archive / Stringer.

These are the questions the team behind “Beyond Granite” is asking. Over the next year, the Trust for the National Mall—in a groundbreaking partnership with the National Parks Service, the National Capital Planning Commission, Monument Lab, and Justice & Sustainability Associates—will facilitate the selection of a series of temporary commemorative installations and programs, created by artists from around the country, on and around the National Mall, with the hope of extending the program beyond 2023 and for years to come. 

Welcome to our celebration of National Arts and Humanities Month! Throughout October, Mellon is exploring civic engagement outside the ballot box as we open a window into the public squares of tomorrow by way of some of the most exciting arts and humanities projects happening today. Click here to explore more stories.