The Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commemoration Committee and St. John Fisher College recently announced a joint partnership to help honor the life and legacy of Frederick Douglass.
MAG will display a monument of Douglass as part of Re-Energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass, a public art project, exhibition and communitywide reflection commemorating the 200th anniversary of Douglass’ birth and his work on behalf of human rights and social justice.
To date, the project 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, the Rochester Community Media Center and Rochester Contemporary Art Center, and is realized in cooperation with the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, as well as with other community members and organizations.
The Douglass monument, created by artist Olivia Kim, will be displayed at MAG simultaneously with “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 Julien exhibition will be on view at MAG through May 12.
“Frederick Douglass is a towering figure in our nation’s history and MAG is grateful to have the opportunity to help steward his legacy,” director Jonathan Binstock said. “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,” said Gerard Rooney, president of St. John Fisher College. “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 MAG in celebration of this distinguished Rochesterian as we work together to move forward in this community conversation about race, equity and inclusion.”
A companion website for Re-Energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass (douglasstour.com) offers interpretive information such as a self-guided walking/driving tour map and biographical information. The monuments comprising this project, inspired by the Stanley Edwards statue of Douglass in Highland Park, incorporate a casting of the hands of Kenneth Morris Jr., the great-great-great-grandson of 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 200 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 Re-Energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass.
Eison, general manager of the RCTV Community Media Center and associate professor of journalism, broadcasting and public relations at The College at Brockport, is a member of the board of directors for 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 Bleu Cease, co-director of Re-Energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass and RoCo executive director.
“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,” Eison said.
MAG, St. John Fisher College and the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commemoration Committee will host a community conversation regarding Douglass and his legacy, public art, and how the ideas expressed in his life’s work resonate in the modern world at 7 p.m. on April 17.