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Harriet Tubman Monument RFQ

Mayor Ras J. Baraka and the City of Newark seek artists interested in designing a public monument of Harriet Tubman in tribute to the Underground Railroad and its historical significance to be installed in Washington Park. If you are such an artist, please apply to this open call by December 18, 2020.


Washington Park sits in the center of American history. The history of African-Americans in Newark dates to around 1680 when enslaved Africans are believed to have first been brought to the region. One block away from Washington Park, the Old First Presbryterian Church located at 810 Broad Street in Newark was once part of the infamous Underground Railroad. In the aftermath of the Civil War, a new population of Black migrants began to arrive in great numbers to Newark from southern states during what is known as the Great Migration. The story of Newark’s African-American populations is one of struggle against great odds to gain freedom, human and civil rights, and social, economic and political equality.

To honor Harriet Tubman and Newark’s role in the Underground Railroad, the City of Newark plans to install a new public monument and rename Washington Park to Tubman Square. Additionally, the City of Newark removed the Christopher Columbus statue from its pedestal in Washington Park amid calls for racial justice and equity and new public monuments that honor the historic liberation struggles of Black, Latinx and indigenous communities. The new Harriet Tubman monument will replace the Columbus statue.

The monument represents a step toward fostering a more diverse and inclusive public art collection for the City of Newark. The proposed location for the monument is Washington Park’s Broad Street entrance near the lightrail and the current goal is to install the new permanent public artwork in 2022.


This Request for Qualifications (RFQ) is to solicit artists or artist teams who are interested in being considered to design a permanent public monument of Harriet Tubman in Newark’s Washington Park. The artist chosen to design a monument will be determined through the City of Newark’s Division of Arts and Cultural Affairs commissioning process. If the artist or artist team does not live or work in Newark, candidates must also be willing to work with a Newark-based artist as an apprentice or collaborator on the project; the Division of Cultural Affairs can facilitate matching artists with qualified Newark-based apprentices


The project budget is estimated at $300,000 and must include all project costs, artist’s fees, design services, community engagement, site preparation, engineering, fabrication, travel, transportation of the work to the site, insurance, permits, installation, documentation of the artwork, and contingency.


Professional visual artists or artist teams, working in any and all media, legally authorized to work in the U.S., and who are at least 18 years of age, are eligible to apply. Employees of the City of Newark and their family members are not eligible to apply. If applying as an artist team, please identify the team member who will serve as the lead artist.


This open call is organized into two phases:

Phase One is the RFQ in which artists or artist teams may respond with samples of past work and supplementary materials to be considered for the Harriet Tubman commission. The City of Newark’s Division of Arts and Cultural Affairs, in partnership with an advisory committee of outside arts and design professionals (the “Committee”), will select between three and five artists or artist teams to proceed to Phase Two of the open call (the “Finalists”).

Phase Two is a Request for Conceptual Designs in which Finalists will submit a conceptual design for final review by the Committee. Finalists will receive a $1,000 honorarium for completion of a conceptual design in response to the Request for Conceptual Designs. One artist will be selected by the Committee from Phase Two to finalize designs, fabricate and install the artwork in partnership with the City (the “Selected Artist”).

Phase One: Request for Qualifications

As part of Phase One, the City of Newark invites artists or artist teams to submit examples of past work for the Committee to review. Eligibility is based upon artistic merit as evidenced in previous work, though the artist or artist team need not have completed a prior permanent public commission. There is no submission fee. Submissions must be made online through https://cityofnewark-arts.submittable.com/submit. Submissions must be completed by 11:59PM on December 18, 2020.

Submission Materials

Artists must submit all of the following materials for consideration:

  • Statement of Interest (250 words max) Provide a narrative description of your interest in the commission and your qualifications for undertaking such a project; how your art practice and process can be translated to this project;and how you might approach this project.  If you are applying as an artist team, your statement of interest should reflect the work and approach of the team. If you are based outside of Newark, include a brief description of how you will engage a Newark-based apprentice or collaborator in the work.
  • Artist’s Statement (250 words max) Provide a narrative description of your past work and current practice, including reference to submitted work samples, as relevant.
  • Resume or CV (2 pages max) Provide a current resume or CV, highlighting artistic excellence, any teaching experience, community engagement work, and/or experience working with multiple stakeholders. Be sure to include any relevant public or private commissioning experience. If you are applying as an artist team, combine your information into a two-page document that summarizes the team members’ qualifications. For example, a four-member team may choose to include a half-page bio for each team member.
  • References Provide the name, phone number and email addresses of two (2) professional references that have experience working with you as a partner or client on a creative project. Please indicate your relationship to each reference.
  • Work Samples Provide 10 images of completed work. Images should be from 70 - 100 dpi. If you have a video of your work that is relevant to this project (i.e. a kinetic sculpture or sound element), submit a PDF with a link to the video. Each video PDF link will count as one of your 10 images. Each video may be no longer than 3 minutes. If you are applying as an artist team, designate one artist to be the team leader to submit your information, along with team member(s) images and resume/bio(s). Submissions from artist teams should reflect samples from each artist on the team, and not exceed the overall submission limit of 10 images.
  • Work Sample List Provide a list of submitted work, including title, date, materials and dimensions, locations, and/or running times. Include 1-2 sentence descriptions as needed.

Phase Two: Request for Conceptual Designs

As part of Phase Two, the City of Newark Division of Arts and Cultural Affairs will invite the selected between three and five Finalists to submit conceptual proposals for review by the Committee. Finalists will receive an honorarium of $1,000 for submission of a conceptual proposal regardless of the number of concepts submitted. The City of Newark aspires to commission artwork of the highest caliber possible, and to set a national example for public art commissioning, while reflecting contemporary art practices and the vibrant communities where the work will be installed. The conceptual proposals will be judged against the following criteria:

  • Appropriateness of each artist’s approach to the site’s architecture, function, and users;
  • Skilled craftsmanship;
  • Clarity of artistic vision;
  • Inclusive apprenticeship with Newark-based artist(s)
  • Consideration of the cost and durability of the artist’s chosen materials
  • Proposed budget for design, fabrication, and installation
  • That the artist’s public commission is true to his/her/their sensibility; and
  • Community engagement that allows residents to be a part of this historic monument listing their family name as a contributor.  Design ideas will be considered from the artist or artist teams.


Please direct all inquiries regarding this open call to fayemi shakur, Director of Arts & Cultural Affairs, at shakurf@ci.newark.nj.us

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