• Commissioning Entity

    New York City Department of Cultural Affairs

  • Application Open Date


  • Application Deadline Date


  • Minimum Budget


  • Maximum Budget


  • Location of Commission

    New York, New York, United States

  • Commission Portal

    View Link

  • Geographic Eligibilty


  • Contact Name

    NYC Percent for Art

  • Contact Email

    [email protected]

  • Contact Phone

  • Commission Document

    Document not uploaded

  • Brief Description

    In 2018, She Built NYC was launched to address the underrepresentation of women in the city’s public art collection by commissioning public monuments to honor women and women’s history in New York City. The four projects below were initially announced in March 2019, but stalled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in and never even got to the initial phase of planning. Thanks to the Adams administration, these four remaining projects are now being restarted, and an open call is being launched for artists to design them. She Built NYC will honor Katherine Walker in Staten Island, Billie Holiday in Queens, Elizabeth Jennings Graham in Manhattan, and Dr. Helen Rodriguez Trias in the Bronx. A fifth project honoring Shirley Chisholm in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park is already underway and received unanimous approval from the city’s Public Design Commission last year.

    She Built NYC builds on the recommendations of the Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments, and Markers to expand the stories, histories, and narratives currently represented on public property in New York. These representations have historically failed to reflect the trailblazing women and non-binary individuals that have contributed to the City.


    The women being honored in this round of new monuments are:

    Katherine Walker (1838-1941)

    Walker was the keeper of the Robbins Reef Lighthouse in Staten Island for 35 years. She is credited with saving the lives of at least 50 people and maintaining the light that guided countless ships to safe passage through Kill Van Kull, the shipping channel between Staten Island and Bayonne, New Jersey. One of the few female lighthouse keepers in United States history, she broke barriers in a male-dominated field and raised her two children at the lighthouse, rowing them back and forth to attend school on Staten Island. Walker’s story sheds light on the largely untold history of women working in New York City’s maritime industry.

    The Katherine Walker monument will be included in the ongoing development planned for Staten Island’s North Shore being spearheaded by New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC).

    Billie Holiday (1915-1959)

    Born Eleanora Fagan Gough, Holiday is one of the most celebrated jazz singers of all time. Her career helped to define the New York emerging jazz scene and challenged racial barriers, becoming the first Black women to sing with a white orchestra. Holiday’s Strange Fruit, a powerful protest song about lynching, was named by Time Magazine “the song of the century.” Her career was recognized with a dozen Grammy Awards and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

    The Billie Holiday monument will be built at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center, near the clubs she performed in and the neighborhood she called home.

    Elizabeth Jennings Graham (1827–1901)

    Graham challenged racial segregation a century before the modern Civil Rights Movement. On July 16, 1854, the 24-year-old schoolteacher boarded a streetcar at the intersection of Pearl and Chatham Streets, in what is now Park Row, that did not accept African Americans as passengers. When the conductor confronted her, she refused to leave until forcibly removed by the police. The city’s African-American community was outraged by the incident, and Graham sued the Third Avenue Railroad Company, the conductor, and the driver. The judge ruled in her favor, holding that “a colored person… had the same rights as others.” In addition to winning $225 in damages, Jennings’s case took the first step toward ending transit segregation in New York. By 1860, all of the city's streetcar lines were open to African Americans because of her efforts. In her later years, Jennings continued to teach, helping to start the first kindergarten in the city for Black children.

    The Elizabeth Jennings Graham monument will be built near the route of the streetcar journey on which she made her courageous stand.

    Dr. Helen Rodríguez Trías (1929-2001)

    Dr. Rodríguez Trías was a pioneer in reproductive rights, and HIV/AIDS care and prevention. Dr. Rodríguez Trías’s work often advocated on behalf of women and children, especially those in poor and minority communities. She became the medical director of the New York State Department of Health’s AIDS Institute and the first Latinx director of the American Public Health Association. Dr. Rodríguez Trías was a recipient of the Presidential Citizen’s Medal for her work on behalf of women, children, people with HIV/AIDS, and the poor. Among her greatest legacies are shaping regulations that govern informed content for sterilizations and empowering low-income and minority women through the women’s health movement.

    The Dr. Helen Rodriguez Trias monument will be built in a public-facing area at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln, where she was the head of the hospital’s pediatrics department and advocated for better medical care for the communities of color that the institution served.


    An advisory panel comprised of individuals representing a broad range of expertise and backgrounds will assess the nearly 2,000 public nominations and create a shortlist of up to five finalists for commemoration. This Request for Qualifications (RFQ) is to solicit artists or artist teams who are interested in being considered to design a permanent public monument to the selected woman, group of women, or event in women’s history that significantly impacted New York City. The City will match the selected woman, group of women, or event from the shortlist to one public site, and the artist chosen to design a monument will be determined through the City’s Percent for Art commissioning process.


    The project budgets will range from $250K up to $750K and must include all project costs, including but not limited to the following: artist’s fees, design services, community engagement, site preparation, engineering, fabrication, travel, transportation of the work to the site, insurance, permits, installation, documentation of the artwork, and contingency.


    Professional visual artists or artist teams, working in any and all media, legally authorized to work in the U.S., and who are at least 18 years of age, are eligible to apply. Employees of the City of New York, Committee members (as defined in the following section) and their family members are not eligible to apply. If applying as an artist team, please identify the team member who will serve as the lead artist. By applying, artists or artist teams could be considered for any of the upcoming 4 new memorials.

    Please see commission portal link for full project information, application instructions, and application form.