October 28, 2021 - The City of Fort Wayne Public Art Commission is pleased to announce the recommendation of a sculpture artist for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Public Monument. In partnership with the University of Saint Francis, the monument will be placed at the southeast corner of the USF Performing Arts Center parking area at 420 West Berry St.

On February 4, 2020, Fort Wayne City Council passed a resolution sponsored by Councilpersons Chambers and Jehl initiating a process for the creation of a public display commemorating the words and visit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Fort Wayne in 1963. City Council recognizes the social value of memorializing Dr. King’s dream of racial equality and harmony and celebrating the words he spoke at the Scottish Rite Auditorium, now the USF Performing Arts Center. Dr. King visited Fort Wayne on June 5, 1963 on his journey to Washington, D.C. where he would make the historic “I Have a Dream” speech just two months later.

At the direction of City Council, the Public Art Commission created a selection committee and issued a Request for Qualifications in February 2021. Upon review of a number of submissions, the selection Committee invited three qualified respondents to submit a proposal. In August 2021, the Selection Committee recommended a proposal called Pillars of Hope and Justice submitted by Shane Albritton and Norman Lee of RE:site Studio for Public Art Commission approval. The Public Art Commission approved the Selection Committee’s recommendation at its meeting yesterday afternoon. 

The Public Art Commission intends to forward their recommendation to City Council for final approval in December. If approved, the final design and development process is slated to begin in January 2022. As part of the final design process, the Public Art Commission and the selected artists will be seeking input from the community. The monument will be unveiled on June 5, 2023 as part of a planned 60th Anniversary commemoration of Dr. King’s speech in Fort Wayne.

According to the artists proposal, Pillars of Hope and Justice commemorates the historic visit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Fort Wayne in June 1963, where he shared his vision of nonviolent resistance. The monument features six pillars set in a circular configuration around a stone or concrete plaza. Each pillar will evoke both ancient architectural pillars and growing reeds of papyrus that emerge from the ground and bend outwards at the top. The organic form of papyrus reeds evokes Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision of nonviolent resistance. The sculptural, steel forms will be waterjet cut with words from King’s 1963 speech in Fort Wayne. The waterjet words dramatically arc over visitors, evoking King’s statement, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” The pillars are planned to be approximately 15’ tall. LED ground up-lights will be installed in the center of each pillar, so that they can be seen at night.

“We are so honored to build this monument to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights leaders of Fort Wayne, Indiana,” said Shane Allbritton and Norman Lee. “As artists, we were moved to learn more about the history of grassroots democracy in Indiana. We hope that this monument inspires Fort Wayne residents to apply Dr. King’s pillars of nonviolence resistance and carry the civil rights movement forward.” Norman Lee is the son of immigrants and part of a family that has organized for civil rights and racial justice for three generations, and he sees his artwork as an expression of that legacy. Shane Allbritton is deeply inspired by consultations with survivors, heroes, activists, and historians has dedicated two decades to expressing cultural stories through art and design.

“We are excited to partner with the University of Saint Francis in the development of this monument as an addition to Fort Wayne’s ever-growing collection of Public Art.” said Nancy Stewart, Public Art Commission Chair. “This stunning commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s speech and visit to Fort Wayne in 1963 will serve to educate existing and future generations as well as create a destination to be enjoyed by residents and visitors for years to come” 

Mayor Tom Henry and Fort Wayne City Council created the Public Art Program and Public Art Commission in March2018. The primary purpose of the Public Art Program is to enliven and enhance the city through the promotion and integration of artworks into the public realm and assist with city-led beautification efforts. For more information and to read a copy of the Art for All! Public Art Master Plan, visit www.FortWaynePublicArt.com.