WASHINGTON (WDVM) — The National Park Service has extended the SmithGroup’s permit to house its Black Lives Matter “mini-museum” on the National Mall. The architecture firm’s effort was spearheaded by Dayton Schroeter and Julian Arrington: two Black architects who wanted to pay homage to Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.
“It’s not my opinion, it’s not Julian’s opinion, it’s a fact-based installation,” Schroeter said.
It was a quick turnaround; they designed the concept in mid-June and debuted Society’s Cage on Friday, in time for the March on Washington. Arrington says the piece started as a cube, a metaphor for a “pure object,” with four data sets that reference mass incarceration, capital punishment, lynching, and civilian killings by police. The cube is covered in hanging rods.
“America’s Front Yard” is a powerful place to host the installation that was built to spark conversations about white supremacy and racism. “We’re rendering it in a beautiful way for people to come and appreciate and understand — we’re trying to make racism accessible,” Schroeter said. “It’s like an indictment, if you will, on some of the other symbols that occupy the National Mall.”
Schroeter says he wanted the museum to supplement the Smithsonian’s exhibits during the pandemic. He also wants it to remind visitors that Taylor’s and Floyd’s murders weren’t anomalies; that they’re the result of hundreds of years of systemic racism. “It’s an opportunity to bypass the typical formalities of conversations that typically happen in the aftermath of these tragedies where we don’t examine these police killings within context,” he said.
Roses are scattered on the area surrounding the cage. Small speakers play haunting music and an occasional police siren. “The sort of idealistic kumbaya moment that everyone wants is more achievable if we’re able to actually reflect and contemplate over what the actual issues are,” said Arrington.
The piece is making many lasting impacts. SmithGroup is keeping track of people’s reactions on Instagram with the hashtag #SocietysCage. The firm has also partnered with the Architects Foundation to raise money for scholarships through its installation.
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