Boston Arts Commission Approves Final Design For The Boston Common King Memorial

Hank Willis Thomas and MASS Design Group's proposed memorial. (Courtesy City of Boston)
Hank Willis Thomas and MASS Design Group's proposed memorial. (Courtesy City of Boston)

The final design for a memorial honoring Dr. Martin Luther King has been approved by the Boston Art Commission, according to an announcement from the city. King Boston executive director Imari Paris Jeffries said they can now move forward with the fabrication process next month.

Jeffries said it feels especially important to begin building this bronze sculpture in April as it was on April 23, 1965 that King came to Boston for a civil rights march and freedom rally. The memorial, by artist Hank Willis Thomas, is slated to be placed beside the Parkman Bandstand on Boston Common, where King spoke that day.

“It's been a process to create something that is so universally accepted, and to be quite honest, when we presented, there were no questions,” Jeffries said. “It was enthusiastic support.”

The unanimous vote approved a figural abstraction that shows the intertwined hands of King and his wife Coretta Scott King. It’s meant to emphasize the power of collective action and women as leaders.

“We gave them a copy of the patina style that we're hoping to get,” Jeffries said. “It's a little brighter than the Shaw Memorial, but it's better because that way allows it to be high touch. We want [the sculpture] to be experienced by folks.”

The memorial, called "The Embrace," is expected to be installed in 2022 and approval is contingent on the completion of an agreement addressing issues such as a maintenance fund. King Boston is also working with the Parks Department on review of the plaza, which includes a quotation by Coretta Scott King.

Because Boston Common is a Boston landmark, the site will also need to be approved by the Boston Landmarks Commission prior to installation.

"It has been a pleasure to be able to witness all of the wonderful work that has gone into this project, especially the community process," said Ekua Holmes, vice chair of the Boston Art Commission said in a statement. "We were able to engage the multitude of voices that make up our city in conversation about the future of public art. "The Embrace" represents our rich history and our shining future.”


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Cristela Guerra Reporter
Cristela Guerra is an arts and culture reporter for WBUR.



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