SANTA FE – The city of Santa Fe has introduced its first measure of “healing and reconciliation” centered around the so-called “Soldiers’ Monument” in Plaza Park following protests against multiple monuments within city limits.
A plywood structure will be built around the obelisk in the center of the Santa Fe Plaza, and the city is inviting the general public, local artists, poets and young people to use it as a canvas.
The city says in a news release that the plywood shell, which was installed to protect against continued vandalism, would serve “as a focal point for artistic expression that can begin a conversation that will lead to a healing and reconciliation process.”
“In particular, the community is invited to share words and images of hope and healing on this installation, which will remain in place as needed community conversations happen,” the release says.
A temporary barrier has been placed around the obelisk in the meantime.
The idea grew out of a Historic District Review Board meeting earlier this week. Members of the board had expressed support for a temporary public art installation and generating community dialogue about racial healing.
The project is described in the release as “Culture Connects: Behind the Masks – Uncovering the Values We Carry Forward.”
In the last week, vandals spray-painted graffiti on the obelisk and chipped away part of the marble. The 33-foot obelisk, erected in 1868 as a monument to Union soldiers who fought in Civil War battles in New Mexico, has long been controversial because one side of the base was engraved with text saying it honored “heroes” who had fallen in battles with “savage” Indians.
While the offensive word was chiseled away by an anonymous man in the 1970s, it is still viewed as a symbol of suppression of Native Americans.
The obelisk, along with a monument to Kit Carson and a statue of Diego de Vargas in Santa Fe, are among many monuments nationwide that are being criticized for commemorating brutal acts against racial minorities in America.
The Kit Carson obelisk, located in front of the U.S. District Courthouse, already has protective plywood around it. Mayor Alan Webber ordered the temporary removal of the de Vargas statue June 18 to protect it from damage.
Those wishing to participate in the art installation around the obelisk are encouraged to contact the city’s Art and Culture Department.