Memorial Project

Listen to Bryan Stevenson talk about our history of racial inequality and need for truth about slavery in the United States
Bryan Stevenson TED talk

The New York Times’ 1619 Project and What It Means to Be American

Call for a United States Slavery Memorial

Reimagining Confederate Statues in Richmond, Virginia

Mayor of New Orleans on our true history and monuments’ role

Art of all kinds, but specifically memorials and monuments, have enormous power; they help us to deal with difficulties. They allow us to mourn, remember, educate future generations, honor, and hopefully heal.

In recent years, more and more people have begun calling for a United States memorial acknowledging the role slaves played in our country’s foundation.

According to an opinion piece in The New York Times written by Blain Roberts and Ethan Kytle, because we are a country that teaches history through memorials, it is time that we “tell the truth about slavery and its victims,” and create a memorial about slavery.

In response to this demand and the book you just finished, Chains, your challenge is work with a small group to decide how best to recognize and remember the legacy of slavery in your own way.

Your memorial should seek to:

FIRST and foremost, educate the country about the history or reality of slavery in the United States, and also possibly, commemorate or celebrate the legacy of slaves in the founding of the country, and/or honor the slaves that gave their lives to build the U.S. into an economic powerhouse.

A specific example of one family’s legacy

This memorial should be about slaves in Colonial America, so from 1619 – 1776, or, if you’d like, you could instead create a memorial to slavery in some other form in some other part of the world, or in a different time period.

Along the way you will:

  • study examples of memorials around the world.
  • develop your own idea and make a thumbnail sketch of your design.
  • present your idea to your group and decide on your favorite 3-4 ideas as a group.
  • meet with experts to get feedback and decide your 1 best idea.
  • write a polished proposal persuading your audience that there is a need for this memorial and explaining its symbolism and where it should be placed and why.
  • build a maquette or small model of it.
  • photograph your model.
  • create a poster showcasing your design and ideas including photos of your model and writing explaining its most important aspects.
  • present your work at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD).

You will work on this project in English and social studies with input from Mr. Markwald; Mrs. Eppelsheimer; Mrs. Markwald; Mrs. Michels, US art teacher; Richard Taylor, a Milwaukee sculptor; Nicole Hauch and Dale Shidler, professors at MIAD; as well as Charlie Merz, an architect from Detroit, who is also Mrs. Reimer’s dad.

The targets:

  • I/we can explain the legacy of slavery in the foundation of the United States.
  • I/we can commemorate the contributions of slaves in the United States or elsewhere.
  • I/we can explain the symbolism behind our design.
  • I/we can creatively and effectively display information for public consumption.
  • I/we can communicate clearly and properly with solid conventions.

Before you do any real work, however, please watch the following presentation about memorials and monuments around the world.

How do memorials help us understand the past?
How do we as a society remember acts of great heroism, sacrifice or tragedy?
How does humanity deal with great pain?

TO DO item #1, MEMORIAL INTRO, part 1:
While watching, make notes about the symbolism in EACH memorial using the “Memorials and Monuments” handout,
and note what specific design elements you like about your favorite few.

TO DO item #2, watch MEMORIAL INTRO, part 2:
While watching, make notes about the symbolism in EACH memorial using the “Memorials and Monuments” handout,
and note what specific design elements you like about your favorite few.

TO DO item #3: at some point before Tuesday, April 16th, each student, with his or her partner(s), or alone, or with friends, should try to visit a local memorial or public sculpture.
I’ve included a map and list of possible sculptures to visit below, but feel free to ask your parents, family, and/or friends for recommendations.

Spillover II in Atwater Park in Shorewood and the Teamwork sculpture at Miller Park are some sights not included on the below map that may also work well.
As well as Pinat Hatikvah or Corner of Hope memorial at the Jewish Community Center or JCC in Whitefish Bay.

If you can’t get to an actual sculpture, investigate one deeply by looking up pictures and videos online. Consider Milwaukee and Chicago locations first just to get a better sense of your city or region. Have you seen sculptures downtown? Have you been to Millennium Park in Chicago?

While there, you are responsible for noting and answering the following questions. I will want to see written or typed answers to each question in class on April 20th and 21st:

1. What is the name of the piece?
2. Who is the artist?
3. What it is a tribute to, if applicable.
4. How tall is it, approximately?
5. How wide, approximately?
6. What sort of signage is included?
7. Is there history or context given on the sign?
8. Does it appear to be lit at night?
9. Are there benches or places to sit nearby?
10. Can you walk all the way around it?
11. Can you walk under or through it?
12. What does it make you think?
13. How does it make you feel? Or, what emotions does it evoke?
14. Are there plants or trees or other landscaping nearby?
15. Is there water or a fountain nearby?

Download and print this handout if you want a copy of the questions on which to write.

TO DO item #4: prep for your meeting with an artist/expert on 4/15/19
Create two or more thumb nail sketches.
Use the above handout or the printed copy given in class, and fill up the squares with sketches of 4+ ideas of anything you might want to consider for your memorial.


Add any notes about materials you’d like the memorial to include on the margins of the paper.

The sketches are not being graded and that they should be more quick than detailed and realistic.
You may use tracers or rulers if you want hard edges but that is not necessary. You may also collage images that you print out together. For instance, if you wanted a horse in your sketch, you could print out a horse and draw around it. You can also just do a stick figure of a horse; it is not necessary for the drawing to be “nice” for any of the experts to get the gist of your idea.

On Monday, April 15th – meet with members of the “outside expert panel” made up of:

Mr. Taylor, local sculptor

Mr. Shidler, chair of 2D/4D design at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design

Ms. Hauch, adjunct professor at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design

and four MIAD students named: Teresa, Josie, Cassidy, and Bri

Mrs. Michels, USM, upper school art teacher who has studied public sculpture and helped to write a book on public art in Milwaukee.

Other “To Do items” / Deliverables checklist:

When is everything due?

How do I write a proposal? pre-writing questions and
Can I see an example of a proposal?


sample proposal written by Mr. Ben Rothschild, MIAD grad and Milwaukee sculptor
for a sculpture he made for the Milwaukee Riverwalk:


How can I make my proposal as strong as possible?

PolishingProposal – Broadband from Hannah Reimer on Vimeo.

PolishingProposal_part2 from Hannah Reimer on Vimeo.

Professional descriptions of the symbolism of memorials:
Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial

New England Holocaust Memorial 

Pinat Hatikvah Holocaust remembrance memorial in Milwaukee

How do I start a Pages document for the poster?


What info should I put on our poster?

What should the text on our poster sound like?


How to make your poster look AWESOME, by Mr. Shidler, MIAD professor and communication design expert:

Mr. Shidler talks poster design from Hannah Reimer on Vimeo.

How will we be graded on artistic elements?

How will Mrs. R grade us?

professional brochure samples: New York City Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Bryant Park

View existing memorials:

Modern slavery monuments
Architectural Digest’s 14 favorite memorials
new individual Holocaust Memorial in Berlin

9/11 Memorial in New York City, NY

Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

National Veterans Art Museum in Chicago

Oklahoma City National Memorial

New England Holocaust Memorial

Survivors’ descendants making memorials of their bodies

articles and RESOURCES for proposals

database of helpful articles by topic

History of Racism in U.S. from The Atlantic

White Privilege and segregation in the U.S.

Racist app helps you avoid black neighborhoods

Freddie Gray’s childhood from The Baltimore Sun