PERMANENT MONUMENT COMMEMORATING STONEWALL REBELLION, 1969
Stonewall Place, Christopher Park, New York City
Commissioned by Williamson L. Henderson and the Stonewall Veterans Association
Imagine. You're walking in Greenwich Village, down Seventh Avenue or Christopher Street. Every so often you notice a lone pair of shoeprints on the sidewalk, cast right into the pavement.
You continue to follow the trail of shoeprints in treasure hunt-like anticipation, what soon becomes a . When you finally turn the corner to glimpse Christopher Park, the sidewalks and the streets are now carpeted with dozens of shoeprints everywhere: dress shoes, sneakers, footprint, and high-healed shoes—all pacing, as it were, in different directions. The scene is quite remarkable. For every dozen empty shoeprints, there is a pair whose shallow reservoir is filled with a transparent plastic resin. As you bend down to inspect it, you notice that, encased within, are the personal mementos of the individual to whom those shoeprints belong.
You now understand that you are bearing witness both to the remnants of a huge gathering from the past, but also to personal stories. An eerie presence is increasingly felt as you take it all in: the archeology of the street, the history of the city and of its people. You are in the midst of the Stonewall Rebellion Memorial.
Strewn in a frenzy of action, the shoeprints will capture the energy, the mayhem, and the spirit that was the Stonewall Rebellion. But significantly, it is the surviving veterans themselves who will ceremonially cast their shoeprints into the city streets, filling their individual shoeprints with their own time-capsule encasements. This component will lend a great authenticity, sense of history, and community participation to a non-traditional monument, commemorating a non-traditional event. It will surely stop viewers in their tracks, providing opportunity for fun-filled interaction, learning and reflection.
After the spectacle of the street installation, viewers will enter the main site within Christopher Park, where the shoeprints spill into a beautiful sunken courtyard made of pink granite. Here, viewers may sit, relax and contemplate. In the center of the courtyard is a flowerbed floating in a shallow and discreet fountain. The flowers are arranged in rainbow colors and are beautifully bracketed by the warmth and elegance of the pink stone. Engraved into the sides of the granite steps may be dates, names, and inspirational messages to be decided. At night, incandescent lights warmly illuminate the courtyard, providing a shimmering nighttime glow to the pink granite and to the fountain. The courtyard, seasonal by nature, will take viewers in, offer refuge, and provide a site from which to gaze at the historic streets and buildings, and inquire, exchange and remember.
In an attempt to remain true to the historical uniqueness it commemorates, the monument embraces both the unruly, in the form of the dispersed shoeprints, as well as the contemplative, in the form of the courtyard sanctuary. Be it through the interaction of one viewer with a shoeprint time capsule, or through the exchanges that will ensue between fellow viewers of all ages, the monument commemorates a pivotal event in the history of the struggle for human rights. Furthermore, with the installation of a thoughtful and powerful work of art, viewers will be compelled to search the past, evaluate the present, and make crucial connections between the two with an eye to the future. This sense of historical continuity, which lies at the heart of all strong communities, will flourish in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered communities once a formal venue is created to recognize and celebrate the courage of a pioneering generation. Stonewall is our cultural heritage, and it is from cultural heritage that communities derives their dignity, hope and inspiration toward their future.
Process: The first phase of construction will involve the fountain courtyard. This is a longer and more complex project. The second phase, closer to the time of unveiling, will involve the street and sidewalk imprinting. Once shoeprints are in place, skilled volunteer will help each veteran with their personal time-capsule encasements.
Media: The building process of this particular monument is novel, dynamic and performative. It will therefore be an occasion for media interest. For instance, shoe imprinting may take place at a grand ceremony, or nightly, over an entire month of June, in anticipation of Gay Pride. Such ceremonies will build public and media anticipation and may also serve as fundraising events. The entire process of the building of the Stonewall Rebellion Memorial, from concept to completion, can become the subject of a major feature-length documentary film.
Expense: The proposal provides for a monument that is relatively modest in expense. The greatest cost will involve the materials and construction for the central fountain. The community, known for its generosity and powers of mobilization, will rally to raise the funds to make the monument a reality. Much work will be done through volunteering.
Maintenance: Arrangements with city authorities will have to be negotiated with respect to the maintenance of the fountain, flowerbed and lighting in the central portion of the monument. This part of the monument is of course seasonal, operating 6 months out of the year.
Revitalization: For the neighborhood, the monument will provide a most appealing and elegant way to beautify and revitalize an historic location.