National Artist Open Call for Public Artwork Honoring Houston’s Barbara Jordan

by Christopher Blay August 4, 2019
image of Barbara Jordan for the city of Houstons First open call to artists to create public art about Jordan

Open call to artists honoring the late Barbara Jordan.

The City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs seeks to honor and commemorate the life of the late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan with a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) from artists, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced on Friday. This is a national open call: an artist will be selected from qualified applicants to create the city’s first permanent outdoor artwork about the congresswoman. Although Jordan has been the subject of works like Robert Pruitt’s Objects in Oba’s Throne Room (reviewed here), and has had art in a post office named in her honor, no permanent pubic artwork dedicated to the Houston native has yet been created.

Oba's throne room detail

Robert Pruitt’s Objects in Oba’s Throne Room, featuring the biography of Barbara Jordan.

Artists residing in the United States are encouraged to submit RFQ’s for design, fabrication, and installation of art that pays tribute to the Houston native. The deadline for submissions to the project, with a total budget of up to $235,000, is Monday, Sept. 23, 11:59 p.m. CST.

As with most public art commissions, RFQ’s will be reviewed by arts professionals, stakeholders, and community representatives, from which a short list of artists will receive stipends to create presentations for final selection.
Funded by the City of Houston Civic Art Program (which established in an ordinance in 1999 that mandates 1.75% of qualified Capital Improvement Project dollars be set aside for civic art), the final commission will consist of a separate design and  construction contract.The final commission will be provided through two contracts with Houston Arts Alliance — one for design and one for construction.

“It’s well past time we memorialize our hero Barbara Jordan with inspiring public art, especially since the city’s art collection contains only one outdoor sculpture or monument honoring a woman,” Mayor Turner states.

Jordan died Jan. 17, 1996, and was the first woman and first African American to deliver the keynote address at a Democratic national convention. Jordan was born in 1936, and as a young adult attended Texas Southern University, where she graduated magna cum laude. Her connection to Houston began with a law practice in Houston after receiving  a law degree from Boston University and a stint as professor at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Jordan’s 1966 Texas Senate election win made her the state’s first African-American senator since 1883. In 1972 Jordan was elected to the United States House of Representatives from the Eighteenth Texas District in Houston, and was the first African American woman from the south to serve in congress.

For more on the RFQ and to apply, please go here.

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