Memorialization and Signage for Washington Street

Click here to view our Gofundme campaign.

On Wednesday, January 25, 2017, the Department of Cultural Affairs of New York City, through its “Percent for Art” program, held the final panel meeting to determine the winning proposal for public art commemorating the “Little Syria” neighborhood of Downtown Manhattan and its literary heritage of Lebanese and Syrian figures like Kahlil Gibran, Mikhail Naimy, Elia Abu Madi, Nasib Arida, ‘Afifa Karam, and Ameen Rihani. The NYC Department of Parks & Recreation is building a new 20,000 sq. ft. park in the historic neighborhood, Elizabeth H. Berger Plaza, and, after determined appeals by our local historical society, they agreed to incorporate public artwork for the messages and themes of the influential writers and poets associated with this part of New York City.

The winning artist, Sara Ouhaddou, presented a design that combines the Arabic script and traditional geometry into a novel, universal form. The poetry and prose of our writers would be written throughout the flat surfaces of the park in stone and in a proposed central pavilion with fortified stained glass. We believe her design is brilliant, and it will allow visitors to the park to encounter the words of Kahlil Gibran, Ameen Rihani, and their colleagues in a beautiful setting. Their light will continue to shine, hopefully from Manhattan to the world.

Our local community nonprofit helped sponsor the artist competition, and now we will also be responsible for raising funds for the monument above what the city can afford from its budget for the park. We are determined to ensure that Sara can realize her full vision, and we will need to develop a comprehensive fundraising plan to achieve this. The cost of the artwork and a supportive endowment for maintenance may become quite expensive. We require seed funding to allow us to produce materials, including a crowdfunding video and proposal documents, to persuade donors to support this meaningful endeavor (please also contact us [toddfine@savewashingtonstreet.org or +1 857-234-0920] if you are an admirer of Kahlil Gibran and the other poets and would like to discuss a major gift).

We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit of local historians and literary scholars, and donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. Donations toward this project’s development will be listed with the full donations toward the effort once the artwork is complete and installed in 2018 or 2019.