October 27, 2021 — The City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA) is pleased to announce an upcoming civic art commission for the African American Library at the Houston Public Library at The Gregory School celebrating the life of the Congresswoman of Texas Barbara Jordan. The artists selected to perform the memorial artwork are Houston’s Jamal Cyrus and his collaborating partner on the project, Charisse Weston.
“Barbara Jordan is a Houston legend and the artwork created by these artists shows the impact she has had in upholding the Constitution of the United States and representing the people of this city,” said the Mayor Sylvester Turner. “The City of Houston is proud to honor Congresswoman Barbara Jordan in such a creative way. Jordan was a trailblazer – a woman who made many firsts and seeing her image and her writing will keep her legacy alive for new generations.
MOCA’s Civic Art Program, in conjunction with the Houston Public Library (HPL), requested submission of qualifications from a national search for artists or teams of artists to design, fabricate, and install an outdoor work of art and pay homage to the educator and civic education. leader. A selection committee comprised of representatives from city departments, the community, and the art world was convened by the Houston Arts Alliance to review artists’ qualifications and recommend concepts for this project. Panelists included artist Leamon Green, curators Rebecca Matalon, Kanitra Fletcher and Danielle Burns Wilson, and Freedmen’s Town Conservancy director Zion Escobar.
Born in 1936 in Houston and raised in Houston’s Fifth Ward, Barbara Jordan attended Texas Southern University, where she graduated magna cum laude, and earned a law degree from Boston University. After teaching at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, she opened a law firm in Houston and became active in politics. In 1966, she won election to the Texas Senate, becoming the state’s first African-American senator since 1883. In 1972, Jordan was elected to the United States House of Representatives from the Eighteenth District of the Texas Congress, as the first representative of the district. She was also the first African-American woman from the South to serve in Congress.
In 1976, Barbara Jordan became the first woman and the first African American to deliver the opening address at the Democratic National Convention. In 1978, she announced her transition to the role of educator, becoming a full-time professor at the University of Texas’ Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, eventually becoming an advisor to Texas Governor Ann Richards. Among his many honors and accomplishments is his receipt of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Barbra Jordan died on January 17, 1996.
“This commission marks a pivotal moment in the timeline of our civic art program. This is only the second public artwork honoring a woman to appear in our civic art collection – and the first honoring an African-American woman – a leader of people whose influence has crossed racial barriers and whose the voice is very relevant today,” said Necole Irvin. , director of the mayor’s cultural affairs office. “Commissioned at the special request of our mayor, this artwork strongly demonstrates the city’s commitment to broadening the perspectives represented by the artwork in our collection and our commitment to recognizing the diversity of heroes that Houston benefits from. “
“Houston Public Library is thrilled, through our partnership with MOCA, to elevate civic art in the city in such a powerful way through this commission from the iconic Barbara Jordan. This project underscores The Gregory School’s African American Library’s founding charge of preserving, promoting and celebrating the rich history and culture of African Americans in Houston and we are honored to host this dynamic work of art for the community can enjoy and experience it. said Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson, director of the Houston Public Library.
The commissioned work in progress, Meditative space reflecting on the life and work of the late Barbara Jordan, is a dynamic memorial space in which freestanding glass panels set in a tranquil structure function as vehicles to represent, through an intricate photographic and textual collage of materials, the life and work of Barbara C. Jordan. Transforming the lawn to the right of the entrance to the Gregory School Library, the Meditative Space invites visitors to step into a place of reflection to reflect on Jordan’s dedication to public service, racial justice and achievement American ideals. The imprint of the commission is informed by the Adinkra symbol sepow, which represents justice and authority.
The commission presents an image of Jordan that not only highlights Jordan’s prowess and commanding voice – politician, lawyer, professor and public figure – but also celebrates Jordan’s lesser-known image as a woman. of deep compassion and conviction rooted in his enduring ties to his family and community.
The commission is slated to debut at The Gregory School’s African American Library in the summer of 2022.
The City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs guides the city’s cultural investments with policies and initiatives that expand access to arts and culture programs in the community, attract visitors, and leverage private investment.
To learn more about the city’s cultural programs, visit www.houstontx.gov/culturalaffairs and follow us on Facebook and Instagram @HoustonMOCA.