Commemorative Site for Enslaved and Exploited People




Davidson College is a liberal arts institution dedicated to cultivating humane instincts and disciplined, creative minds. Our community touchstone is the Reformed Tradition of the Presbyterian Church, a tradition rooted in the belief that all lives are valuable, equal, and deserving of dignity. 

Founded in the American South in 1837, less than thirty years before the Civil War, Davidson College recognizes our participation in slavery and responsibility for the pain and mistreatment of enslaved and exploited people throughout our history. 

In 2017, Davidson College embarked on a study of our institution’s ties to enslavement and the exploitation of labor. We created a Commission on Race and Slavery to undertake this multiyear project, and the Commission presented their findings in August of 2020 (full report here).

In response to recommendations from the Commission, in order to fully and honestly confront the wounds and blind spots of our past and to be true to our Statement of Purpose, a Special Committee on Commemoration was formed. The Committee was tasked to engage broadly with the Davidson College community to recommend a visible and appropriate commemoration, including the possibility of commissioning a work of art to not only honor the contributions of enslaved people and exploited laborers but to more deeply reflect on the lives affected, to celebrate them, and ground us in our commitment for just and humane action in the future. 


In discharging its responsibilities, this Committee will be guided by these values:

-Davidson College is committed to acknowledging our institutional history honestly and fully.

-Davidson College is committed to also acknowledging the range of ways in which individuals have contributed to Davidson’s history honestly and fully. 

-Davidson College is committed to building a genuinely inclusive campus in the present and future.

Prize Summary: 
Project budget estimated to be $3,000,000-$4,000,000
Prizes Details: 


Davidson College is accepting qualifications from creative individuals or teams that include professional artist(s) in partnership with landscape architects, architects, and/or engineers to create a commemorative project, integrating artwork and landscape. 

The selected finalist will be asked to create a permanent, interactive space and artwork sited at a highly visible and prominent location on the Davidson College campus, determined by the Special Committee on Commemoration. The completed space and artwork will serve as a nexus for healing, reflection, recovery, and a reaffirmation of Davidson’s commitment to equality and justice in keeping with the Project Background stated above. Its goal is to facilitate intimate individual experiences as well as support both formal and informal collective gatherings of members of the campus and the broader community, including ongoing speaker presentations and campus events.

A committee of representatives from the college will select a pool of creative finalists from the Request For Qualifications to move forward in developing specific proposals. The final project will be managed by the Van Every/Smith Galleries, Davidson College’s Facilities Planning and Use Committee, and the Board of Trustees.


The design of the commemorative project should achieve a cohesive aesthetic experience that is distinguished from, yet sensitive to, the site, character, architecture, and sculpture around the college’s campus.

-Though Davidson’s historical record as it pertains to enslaved people is limited, the commemorative project will incorporate information from the College’s archives to acknowledge individuals and family legacies.

-The commemorative project will acknowledge the atrocities, injustices, omissions, and blindspots of the past while also imagining a new future. The site should provoke empathy, and focus on perseverance, triumph, and the valuable contributions of those being commemorated. 

-The commemorative project should include an interactive element and engage multiple senses. 

-The commemorative project should visualize/acknowledge the absence of information. The design should allow for the incorporation of new information and research as it is uncovered.

-The commemorative project should focus on the roles and history of Davidson College and the town of Davidson in the larger institution of slavery. 

-The commemorative project should combine artwork, landscape design, and functional infrastructure to accommodate individual, intimate experiences as well as community collective experiences such as gatherings and events for community members of all ages and abilities.

-The commemorative project must be constructed of durable materials capable of withstanding the elements and campus use for a duration of 20+ years. 


-This call is open to all professional artists/architects/design teams who have experience managing, designing, and completing public art commissions.

-Demonstrated management of projects of similar scope and scale is also a qualifying credential.

-Strong preference will be given to individuals or teams with leading members who embody and understand the African-American/Black experience. 

-Eligibility must be demonstrated in the application materials submitted. Exceptions will only be considered for those who can compellingly demonstrate why their experience is exceptional and sufficient to fulfill any of these requirements.


January 7, 2022
Submissions Due by 11:59pm 
Applicants will submit requested qualifications via SlideRoom. 

January 2022 – March 2022
Applications Reviewed
The jury, appointed by President Carol Quillen and the Board of Trustees, will identify the most highly qualified artist(s)/architects/teams for this opportunity from past work samples. 

March 2022-April 2022    
Selection of Finalists
Virtual interviews will take place and the jury will determine a shortlist of three finalists and three alternates. The Special Committee on Commemoration will present their recommendations to the Campus Planning and Use Committee and the Board of Trustees for approval at their April 2022 meeting.

May-August 2022 
Research/Pre-proposal Development
Each of the three finalists will be awarded a $10,000 honorarium to develop a pre-proposal based on the final site determined by the Special Committee on Commemoration. The fee includes all project related costs such as design fee, travel, materials, etc. The finalists will be expected to engage with stakeholders, including college archivists/historians, physical plant, students, faculty, alumni, and community members in order to learn more about Davidson’s history, site, and scope for the commemorative space. Details of this process are forthcoming. 

The pre-proposal should successfully respond to the criteria outlined in the Request for Qualifications. The finalists will present conceptual designs, schematic plans, 3-dimensional sketches/representations, and other materials to convey the design concept to the selection committee and the college community. The finalists should make recommendations about how they will engage the community throughout the process. A budget estimate is required at this stage. 

September-October 2022   
Finalist Presentations
The finalists will have an opportunity to present their pre-proposal design and qualifications to the jury during a campus interview. Proposals will be shared with the wider community for public comment.

October 2022  
Final Selection
The jury will select one (1) finalist based on their written and visual pre-proposal and qualifications to recommend to the Board of Trustees. 

At this point, the finalist will be expected to work closely with various stakeholders to revise and finalize their design/concept.

As part of the contract between Davidson College and the selected finalist, a specific schedule/timeline beyond October 2022 will be agreed upon, from community engagement through final design approval, fabrication, installation, and dedication.


Exact site details will be provided to selected finalists in advance of preparing their pre-proposal. 


The total budget for the project is estimated to be $3,000,000-$4,000,000 which includes all costs associated with the project including design and engineering fees, all reimbursable expenses for the artist/team, mock-ups, materials, fabrication, utilities, surveys, testing, engineering, construction, commissioning, and owner contingency. 


Please address questions to Lia Newman, Director/Curator of the Van Every/Smith Galleries at A compilation of FAQs will be addressed on the project’s website.


Application must be received via SlideRoom by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on January 7, 2022.

The following materials must be uploaded:

-Credentials: A resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV) demonstrating professional history and skills or experience. If applying as a team, all team members must submit resumes. 

-Statement of Interest: A brief introductory narrative that also provides insight about your interest in this project.

-Images of recent work, completed in the last 10 years: Up to ten (10) images or three digital video or movie files (2- 3 minutes each maximum).

-Annotation: Artist/creative team participants, Title, date, media, dimensions, location of project, additional collaborators, indicate permanent or non-permanent, museum/municipality/organization that commissioned the project, and project budget for all submitted images.


Entry Fee:

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