Celebrating Diversity at The National Mall’s Outdoor Show

Celebrating diversity is very important, so The Monument Lab decided to organize its first outdoor public art show at The National Mall.

Aug 20, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
Celebrating diversity
Celebrating diversity at The National Mall, piece by Vanessa German. Photo by AJ Mitchell, courtesy of Monument Lab.


Celebrating diversity has a huge impact on society’s improvement. So, The National Mall decided to host and organize its first outdoor public show. The focus is on celebration through sculptures by Derrick Adams, Wendy Red Star and many others. The Monument Lab decided to host the exhibition, called “Pulling Together”, after years of examining public U.S. sculptures.


Celebrating Diversity Makes Us Stronger

Celebrating diversity
Wendy Red Star, The Soil You See… (2023) in the Monument Lab’s exhibition “Beyond Granite: Pulling Together” on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Photo by AJ Mitchell, courtesy of Monument Lab.


Why this public Philadelphia non-profit decided to examine them for such a long time? Well, the institution wanted to get a better understanding of America’s history and culture. The exhibition is temporary and curated by Monument Lab’s Paul Farber and Rutgers University–Newark professor Salamishah Tillet. The event celebrates works of many artists. For example, there are works by Derrick Adams, Wendy Red Star, Paul Ramírez Jonas and Vanessa German.


It also included works done by Tiffany Chung and Ashon T. Crawley. This is the first outdoor event hosted on the mall’s grounds. “The mall remains a symbol of our Democratic ideals as a nation. ‘Beyond Granite: Pulling Together’ does not shy away from those aspects in our history that can be very hurtful to Americans. We must tell those untold stories fiercely”, Charles Sams, director of National Park Service, said at the exhibition’s unveiling.


Paul Ramírez Jonas
Paul Ramírez Jonas, Let Freedom Ring (2023). Photo by AJ Mitchell, courtesy of Monument Lab.


He also added: “We are only stronger by our diversity. Without it, ecosystems collapse”. Farber and Ken Lum founded the non-profit eleven years ago. But, received recognition in the wake of the George Floyd protests. At that time, many protesters started destroying Confederate statues. New question came in focus: What to do with historically problematic nation’s monuments?

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Diverse Group of Artists in the Show

Ashon T. Crawley
Ashon T. Crawley, Homegoing (2023). Photo by AJ Mitchell, courtesy of Monument Lab.


Monument Lab received $250 million to change the face of American monuments. The philanthropic organization’s $4 million research grant allowed Monument Lab to conduct a comprehensive audit of national, state, and local monuments in the U.S. What it found was of the 50 most-memorialized figures, 42 were white men, and 25 owned slaves. The important thing is telling the story of those who were left out from the history.


The artists selected for the project represent a diverse group—three Black, one Latino, one Asian, one Native American, and half of them women. German honours tribute to legendary Black vocalist Marian Anderson at the Lincoln Memorial. He gained notoriety for his music performance at the memorial in 1939, when the capital of the country was still a divided place.


Vanessa German
Vanessa German, Of Thee We Sing (2023). Photo by AJ Mitchell, courtesy of Monument Lab.


The exhibition, which runs for a month, is a collaboration between the National Capital Planning Commission and the Trust for the National Mall. “Beyond Granite: Pulling Together” is on view at various locations on the National Mall, Washington, D.C., August 18–September 18, 2023.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.