On April 4, the Wilson School and Campus Iconography Committee co-hosted the public lecture “Reflecting on Our Past: The Value of Public Art,” in which landscape architect and UC Berkeley professor Walter Hood introduced a new art piece, “Double Consciousness,” to be installed in Scudder Plaza, adjacent to the Wilson School. Hood hopes the piece will reflect both the positive and negative aspects of Woodrow Wilson’s legacy.
“[The installation] suggests that in all of us, there is a point where we have to try and reconcile that thing inside, whether it be good or bad,” Hood said.
“Double Consciousness” will feature two columnar elements of black and white stone that appear to lean on one another. It will stand at 39 feet tall and bear etched quotes from Wilson that “are both profound and unusual,” according to Hood.
“We wanted something to not feel like it was in equilibrium,” Hood said.
The interior of the structure will be gray, to emphasize the complicated nature of its subject, and will contain quotes from people who challenged Wilson’s racism, whom Hood called “Wilson’s detractors” and “the people who were pushing Wilson to be better.”
The installation’s title is drawn from W.E.B. Du Bois’s 1903 publication, “The Souls of Black Folk.” Hood explained that he drew inspiration from both the teachings of Du Bois and from his own experience as an African-American first-generation college graduate.
Wilson’s legacy on campus first came under widespread scrutiny after the Black Justice League occupied Nassau Hall in November 2015, in protest of the University’s lack of formal acknowledgement of Wilson’s racist acts as president. In response, the Board of Trustees created the Wilson Legacy Review Committee, whose April 2016 report called for “diversifying campus art and iconography.”
Subsequently, a committee of faculty, staff, and students, co-chaired by Woodrow Wilson School Dean Cecilia Rouse and University Architect Ron McCoy, reviewed submissions for sculptural and artistic pieces to explore Wilson’s historical legacy. That committee ultimately selected Hood’s “Black Consciousness” for installation.
One student at the lecture, Angela Wu ’19, commented that she had “mixed feelings” about the installation.
“I guess that is the intention of it, trying to encapsulate both sides of Woodrow Wilson’s legacy,” she said.
Wu acknowledged that the tension portrayed by the sculpture is something she grappled with as both a student of color and a Wilson School major.
Hood spoke about several of his previous large scale projects, which related to struggles for justice and complicated interactions with racism in the United States. Of his previous work, Hood highlighted “Abraham Lincoln Brigade,” which memorializes Americans who fought against fascism in 1930s Spain, “Shadowcatcher,” which commemorates the cemetery remains of an African American family in Charlottesville, “International African American Museum,” which recognizes African American history in Charleston, and “Nauck Town Square,” which marks the site of a historic African American neighborhood outside of Washington, D.C.
“Double Consciousness” will be installed between the Fountain of Freedom, a sculpture by James FitzGerald, and Washington Road. Several trees will be removed from Scudder Plaza to make room for the piece.
The project is slated for completion before the fall term begins.
The lecture took place in the Friend Center at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday.