The Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) and El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument on Friday announced the finalist team for the Memorial to the Victims of the 1871 Chinese Massacre
Artist Sze Tsung Nicolás Leong and writer Judy Chui-Hua Chung were selected from six finalists that presented renderings to the panel and the public earlier this year. More than 176 proposals from respondents to the Request for Information (RFI) chose to propose a physical memorial at one of two primary sites along the 400 block of North Los Angeles Street, near the Chinese American Museum and close to the historical site of the massacre.
“There are few things more important than knowing our full history, including, and maybe especially, when that history involves violent injustice, hidden out of sight,” said Mayor Karen Bass. “The city is taking these steps to honor the victims of the 1871 Chinese Massacre in order to better understand our past and build a better future. This important chapter in our history, long clear to our neighbors of Chinese descent, will now be known and considered by all Angelenos.”
“The 1871 Chinese Massacre represents one of the most savage and horrific events in our city’s history,” said City Councilmember Kevin de León of District 14 . “It is imperative that Los Angeles create a memorial to honor the lives of the victims and be a city that is transparent about even the most painful parts of our history for the sake of reconciliation. The selection of these finalists brings us one step closer to memorializing that history for the sake of the victims.”
“The new memorial seeks to simultaneously raise public awareness of the 1871 Chinese Massacre – in which at least 18 residents of Los Angeles, or roughly 10% of the city’s Chinese population at the time, were murdered – and to address contemporary concerns about race, intolerance, and violence,” said Daniel Tarica, DCA’s general manager. “It strives to tell the story of the little-known largest mass killing in Los Angeles history and to convey a broader, more universal message.”
“El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument is honored to assist in the development of a memorial dedicated to the 1871 massacre of 18 Chinese Americans who lost their lives due to intolerance and racism,” said Arturo Chavez, general manager of El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument. “El Pueblo is the current site where this tragic event occurred and it is only fitting that we recognize and honor the victims of this horrible event. It is time that Los Angeles and the world recognize and honor the victims of intolerance and racism so that we never forget the past and so it will never occur again.”
“The evaluation panel had six excellent proposals to review. The Leong and Chung proposal sensitively addresses the difficult history of the 1871 Chinese Massacre. It strikes the proper balance between honoring and remembering as well as poetically educates the public about this painful event in our city,” said Felicia Filer, DCA Public Art Division director.
Leong and Chung said in a statement: “We are humbled by the historic significance of this memorial and honored that our proposal was chosen from a group of such talented finalists. While we are memorializing a massacre that reveals the long history of anti-Asian violence, we are also acknowledging that Asian Americans have been deeply rooted here since the beginnings of this city, state, and country.
“We are committed to commemorating the tragedy by honoring the victims and the diversity of this city they helped grow. We are grateful to the City of Los Angeles, the Department of Cultural Affairs, the 1871 Memorial Steering Committee, the panelists, and everyone who made this memorial process and this moment possible.”
“We recognize that facing injustices that occurred in our city’s history is not easy, yet it is important to remind future generations of the lessons embodied in the tragic Chinese Massacre of 1871,” said Michael Truong, executive director of the Chinese American Museum. “We commend the City of Los Angeles for shepherding this effort and send our best wishes to the finalist team. When the finished work is unveiled, we look forward to joining together in reflection and healing.”
DCA released the Request for Ideas (RFI) in August 2022 as a product of an extensive, year-long community engagement process spurred by recommendations in the 2021 “Past Due” report of the Mayor’s Office Civic Memory Working Group and shaped specifically by a Steering Committee of more than 70 cultural, civic, and business leaders and other key stakeholders.
The department convened an Evaluation Panel of arts and design experts to review the submissions to the RFI and choose six design teams to receive a stipend of $15,000 each to develop their concepts further and present them in a public forum. The evaluation panel then selected Leong and Chung as the team to develop the memorial.
The Evaluation Panel consisted of:
Annie Chu, founding principal, Chu-Gooding Architects
Christopher Hawthorne, senior critic, Yale School of Architecture
Jason Chu, rapper and community activist
June Li, founding curator, Chinese Garden, Huntington Library (retired)
Mark Lee, partner, Johnston Marklee Architects and chair of architecture, Harvard Graduate School of Design
Steven Wong, artist, curator, and director of East Los Angeles College’s Vincent Price Art Museum
Suellen Cheng, executive director emerita, Chinese American Museum
Susana Reyes, Board of Public Works commissioner
DCA launched the process to develop the memorial with an RFI instead of a traditional Request for Proposals (RFP) or other process as a result of feedback from extensive community sessions held in 2021, in the lead-up to the 150th anniversary of the massacre. The goal was to make the RFI process as open and inclusive as possible, welcoming the most creative and worthy ideas not only from large, established firms but also from individual artists and designers.