African Burial Ground Commissioned Artwork

African Burial Ground Artwork- Unearthed by Frank Bender
Unearthed by Frank Bender

Artwork: Unearthed
About the Artist: Frank Bender
Commissioned: 2002
Installed: 2001
Finished bronze with patina
Location: Ted Weiss Federal Building, 290 Broadway, New York City

Frank Bender (1941-2011) was a world renowned sculptor, known for his work on forensic facial identifications, fugitive age progressions and fine art. His studio is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

About the Work of Art (Comments by the artist):

At the W. Montague Cobb Laboratory at Howard University, I held the eldest woman's skull in my hands and felt that she had endured the most. The younger woman with the bandana had been shot in the back. The young man in the background, the youngest and tallest of the three, is rising for the hope-filled future.

Unearthed, an integrated spirit, they chose me. I was naturally drown to these three personalities.

I pulled on my 24 years of forensic involvement in identifying human remains and my passion for art and felt that through three hands joined together in the earth that I would be able to convey my idea that we are all one in death.

These three were selected from the hundreds of human remains discovered in an African Burial Ground in New York City in 1991.

I was deeply moved by the unique opportunity this project afforded me to combine the use of my forensic skills and fine art skills to unearth the history told by these human remains.

Special thanks to: the General Services Administration and the British Broadcasting Company for the funding and support provided for this project, and to Howard University for their technical assistance.

African Burial Ground Artwork- America Song by Clyde Lynds
America Song by Clyde Lynds

Artwork: America Song
About the Artist: Clyde Lynds
Commissioned: 1993
Installed: 1995
Concrete, Granite, Stainless Steel, Fiber Optics, Electronics, 32'6" H, 16' W, 30" D.
Location: Ted Weiss Federal Building, 290 Broadway, New York City

Clyde Lynds is recognized for intertwining aesthetic grace and technological precision in his works in stone and fiber optics. In the early 70’s, Lynds began experimenting with combining light and concrete. He became increasingly interested in light and its effects and in 1972 combined this interest with concrete in forming sculptural elements. As evidenced in this commission, Lynds has perfected his technique, with this monumental installation. Lynds work is featured in numerous public and corporate collections, among them the national Museum of American Art, The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; Wadsworth Atheneum, Harford, CT; AT&T, Berkley Heights, NJ: Forbes Museum, New York City.

About the Work of Art:
This sculpture is Lynds’ tribute to the history of the site and to all people who strive for freedom. It is an embodiment of American independence; by night, the sculpture is transformed by lighting effects that add visual radiance to the idea of freedom. America Song is a relief sculpture sited at the building’s main entrance. The cast concrete is embedded with fiber optics, which in the evening emit moving light across the surface of the image. Sandblasted on stone below the sculpture is the poem I want to be free/Want to be free,/Rainbow’ round my shoulder/Wings on my feet, written by an anonymous African poet.

African Burial Ground Artwork - Africa Rising by Barbara Chase-Riboud
Africa Rising by Barbara Chase-Riboud

Artwork: Africa Rising
About the Artist: Barbara Chase-Riboud
Commissioned: 1996
Installed: 1998
Bronze: 15'5" x 8'6" x 4'4"
Location: Ted Weiss Federal Building, 290 Broadway, New York City

Barbara Chase-Riboud is an internationally acclaimed artist whose works are in major corporate collections and museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, New York City; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Geigy Foundation, New York; Lannann Foundation, Los Angeles. Since the 1970’s Ms. Chase-Riboud’s sculptures have combined monumental bronze forms with softer materials such as wool and silk fibers.
About the Work:
In the form of a new classical representation, the sculpture pays homage to the African Burial Site and the transport of Africans to this land, their bondage and struggle for freedom. The work also expresses an interrelationship between all races and backgrounds of people in the United States. For this project, the Artist also composed a poem, of the same title, which chronicles the plight of the African slaves and honors their heroism.

African Burial Ground Artwork- The New Ring Shout by Houston Conwill, Sculptor
The New Ring Shout by Houston Conwill, Sculptor

Artwork: The New Ring Shout
About the Artists: Houston Conwill, Sculptor; Joseph DePace, Architect; Estella Conwill Mojozo, Poet
Commissioned: 1993
Installed: 1994
Terrazzo & Polished Brass, 40' diameter
Location: Ted Weiss Federal Building, 290 Broadway, New York City

Working as a collaborative, this interdisciplinary team of artists approach their work with the objective of being a catalyst for social change. Their public art projects are site specific, recognizing the history and spirituality of the location. The multilayered works are both political and spiritual, synchronizing traditional African, Judeo-Christian and Eastern religions, mythologies, and cosmologies, forming a synthesis of multicultural references.

About the Art:
The New Ring Shout commemorates the eighteenth century African Burial Ground. The design of the work is in the tradition of world ceremonial ground markings and the name is after the historical ring shout dance of celebration performed throughout North America and the Caribbean. The work contains a multi-layering of patterns, symbols and texts and languages and is intended to foster greater cultural awareness, racial harmony and understanding.

African Burial Ground Artwork- Renewal by Tomie Arai
Renewal by Tomie Arai

Artwork: Renewal
About the Artist: Tomie Arai
Commissioned: 1995
Installed: 1998
Silkscreen on canvas: 7.5' x 38'
Location: Ted Weiss Federal Building, 290 Broadway, New York City

Arai is a New York City community artist and activist. Her work explores the relationship of art to history and the role memory plays in retelling a collective past. Arai’s work has been exhibited nationally and is in the permanent collection of the Library of Congress, Washington, DC; the Museum of Chinese in the Americas, New York City; and the Museum of Modern Art, New York City. She is the recipient of numerous awards and grants including the 1997 Anonymous Was A Woman grant for achievement in the visual arts.

About the Work of Art:
The mural commemorates the African Burial Ground site and honors the ancestors of New York’s African American descendant community. Through a series of overlapping silkscreen images, Arai draws the viewer’s attention to relevant activities, events, symbols pertinent to 18th and early 19th century American history. The style also suggests the archeological process.

African Burial Ground Artwork- Untitled by Roger Brown
Untitled by Roger Brown

Artwork: Untitled
About the Artist: Roger Brown
Commissioned: 1993
Installed: 1994
Glass mosaic 14' H x 10' W
Location: Ted Weiss Federal Building, 290 Broadway, New York City

Brown (1941 - 1997) was born in Alabama, studied at the American Academy of Art and received degrees from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Works by this internationally recognized artist are represented in numerous public and private collections, among them Continental Bank, Amsterdam; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum Boymans, Rotterdam; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

About the Work of Art:
Roger Brown was a leading painter of the Chicago-Imagist style. For this project, Brown initially painted his image on canvass and then had the composition transformed by skilled artisans in Italy of special glass mosaics. All aspects of the work were accomplished to Brown’s satisfaction; assembled and installed under his guidance. Of his work, Brown said, “On this ancient cemetery site below the modern skyline of New York City a contemporary tapestry of human faces, each made thin and hollow by the ravages of AIDS, descends like some medieval nightmare into a mosaic of death heads in memory of those of all races who have suffered and died too soon.”

Last Reviewed: 2022-11-02