The artist’s proposed artwork – Questions Worth Having Answers To – will uplift the abolitionist legacy of Downtown Brooklyn and examine what work remains in our ongoing struggle toward greater freedom and racial justice.

As part of the new Abolitionist Place in Downtown Brooklyn, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) and artist Kameelah Janan Rasheed are inviting New Yorkers — particularly those connected to the surrounding communities — to learn more about and engage with the artist’s proposed public artwork for the new public green space. Rasheed’s proposal – Questions Worth Having Answers To – consists of a text-based public art installation featuring engraved text throughout the open space, plus a free-standing sculptural installation, inspired by the area’s abolitionist history.

The goal of the public engagement is to hear from different communities about how they make sense of the theme of abolition – past, present, and future. Community responses will, in turn, inform and shape the text that the artist will generate to be engraved and featured on the free-standing sculptural installation.

In light of the ongoing increase in COVID positivity rate, engagement will be primarily remote, including through Zoom introductions; an ongoing virtual Abolition Study Group; by scheduling one-on-one phone calls with the artist; and completing a Google form. The full schedule of public engagement opportunities, which is subject to updates, is available on the artist’s website.

Rasheed has been commissioned for this project through DCLA’s Percent for Art program. The artist lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. Engaging primarily with text, Rasheed works on the page, within digital interfaces, on walls, and in public spaces. She is invested in Black storytelling technologies that invite us to consider ways of [un]learning that are interdisciplinary, interspecies, and interstellar. Rasheed’s work has been exhibited nationally at the Brooklyn Museum; the New Museum; MASS MoCA; the Queens Museum; the Bronx Museum; the Studio Museum in Harlem; Portland Institute for Contemporary Art; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; the Brooklyn Public Library; and the Brooklyn Historical Society, among others. Her public installations have appeared at Ballroom Marfa; the Brooklyn Museum; For Freedoms x Times Square Art, New York; Public Art Fund, New York; Moody Center for the Arts, Houston; The California Air Resources Board; and several others. She is a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow in Fine Arts.

This project builds on the work of In Pursuit of Freedom, which has explored Brooklyn’s anti-slavery movement from the end of the American Revolution to the early days of Reconstruction through programming, photographs, census records, anti-slavery and local newspapers, maps and more.

The City’s open space, Abolitionist Place will commemorate the 19th century abolitionist movement, with a focus on the Underground Railroad, and its ties to Brooklyn. The New York City Economic Development Corporation led community engagement on the open space since 2010, and the design has been approved by the City’s Public Design Commission. Aside from the public artwork, the 1.15 acre site will offer community amenities, such as a new playground for children and multiple outdoor seating areas. Construction is slated to be completed on the project in 2023.