I am writing to stand in solidarity with fellow Carmel resident Ti’Gre McNear and provide support for the concerns expressed regarding the planned J. Seward Johnson statue of a young Black girl swinging around a stop sign. While I do not personally take issue with the particular depiction of this beautiful black child, I do take issue with the response given by our leaders to this distinct request.
The Carmel City Council, and Mayor Jim Brainard, specifically, have an opportunity to invest in a Black sculptor and essentially put their money where their mouth is. J. Seward Johnson’s estate has profited from the mayor’s taxpayer-funded investment in his collection. Why not provide that same opportunity for economic upward mobility to a Black sculptor?
While the council does not have the ultimate say in what art or artist is chosen, it does hold the purse strings. The ability to appropriate this money is just as important as the ability to choose the art installed.
One would assume that local artists of color would be delighted to meet with the leadership of a vibrant and art-centric community to discuss either adding their work (or creating a work in line with the mayor’s vision) to the city’s bountiful collection. And to that end, I am wholeheartedly advocating for an equitable investment by city leaders in this particular issue, which will hopefully lead to more intentional investments in the Black community in Carmel in the future.
Finally, there is no need to offend common decency by suggesting that the request to portray a more modern depiction of Blackness somehow equates to an image of pop culture. The city could commission a sculpture of a multitude of images that show Blackness in its current form. And if anyone has a hard time envisioning what that form may be, I would love to discuss it further over a cup of hot java.
Chaka Coleman, Carmel