Tulsa to receive $1 Million for public art project honoring America’s First “Black Wall Street”

OklahomaHuman InterestEvents
Collaborator: City of Tulsa
Published: 01/20/2019, 9:43 AM
Edited: 03/11/2021, 10:22 AM

(TULSA, Okla.) Tulsa has been named a Bloomberg Philanthropies 2018 Public Art Challenge winner and will receive $1 million for “The Greenwood Art Project,” a group of temporary public artworks which celebrate and commemorate a vibrant community in the Historic Greenwood District known as Black Wall Street.

Black Wall Street was the most prominent district of black-owned businesses in the United States in the early 20th century. Located in the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, in 1921 this community was devastated by racially motivated attacks known as the Black Wall Street Massacre.  

Urban renewal projects in the 1950s and 1960s, including the construction of a major highway through Greenwood, further harmed the area. This public art project seeks to celebrate the history of Black Wall Street and create a more equitable future for residents and visitors.

For the “Greenwood Art Project,” Rick Lowe, nationally renowned artist and founder of Project Row Houses, will work with local artists to tell the story of this neighborhood through a series of installations. Eight art installations will be located at significant sites throughout this historic district, including at the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Center and the Greenwood Cultural Center.

Mike Bloomberg said, “Nearly 100 years after violence rocked Black Wall Street, and 50 years after a highway cut the neighborhood in half, the Greenwood Art Project responds with a message of unity and hope. The project will commemorate a community that once existed – and inspire people to envision a better, fairer future.”

Mayor G.T. Bynum said, “In Tulsa, the racial and economic disparities that still exist today can be traced to the 1921 race massacre. The city as a whole suffers when economic inequality touches any neighborhood. The Greenwood Art Project will help encourage connections and engage citizens to understand the dangers of hatred, the power of resilience and the importance of reconciliation.”

The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission is a key project partner. Composed of 46 members from across the business, cultural and civic landscapes of Tulsa, the Commission includes Oklahoma State Senator James Lankford and John W. Franklin of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture – who is also the son of historian and Greenwood resident John Hope Franklin. Additional partners include the Tulsa Arts Fellowship, the University of Tulsa, and the George Kaiser Family Foundation.

Artist Rick Lowe said, “The story of Black Wall Street is already one of triumph and tragedy. Through the Greenwood Art Project in time for the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, we have the opportunity to establish a future of prosperity, reconciliation and unity – a narrative that every city in America stands to learn from. I am committed to this project because of everything that it stands for.”

In the coming months, Rick Lowe will work with stakeholders and members of the community, including Jeff Van Hanken, Arts and Cultural Committee Chair for the 2021 Centennial Commission Steering Committee, to help shape the concept for the installations that will engage and help build bridges in the Tulsa community.


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