Winning design announced for monument to Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King

Winning design announced for monument to Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King

Jeremy C. Fox and Jon Chesto for The Boston Globe - 4 March 2019

It will rise above Boston Common northeast of the Parkman Bandstand, an immense, undulating form whose gleaming surface will reflect trees and passersby while glowing with a fiery shimmer, as four 22-foot-high bronze arms entwine in a gesture of comfort and healing.

More than 50 years after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination at a Memphis motel, and more than 60 years after King met his future spouse, Coretta Scott, through a mutual friend at Roxbury’s Twelfth Baptist Church, a Boston monument to the civil rights leader is one step closer to fruition.

King Boston, the organization established to memorialize the couple’s local legacy, plans to announce Monday it has selected “The Embrace,” by artist Hank Willis Thomas and MASS Design Group, after reviewing 126 submissions and whittling them down to five finalists.

“I think it’s going to become one of the most iconic pieces of public art in the city,” Paul English, cochairman of King Boston, said by phone on Sunday. “Everybody’s going to be drawn to it, and they’ll say, ‘Why is this here? Why does Boston have a memorial to the Kings?’”

Nearby signs will help visitors explore the local ties of Martin Luther King Jr., who earned a doctorate in theology at Boston University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 1955 and preached at Twelfth Baptist, and of Coretta Scott King, who received a bachelor’s degree from the New England Conservatory of Music.

Designing the monument was both “a huge honor and an incredible responsibility,” Thomas said Sunday. He said he envisioned its interlocking arms after studying photos of the Kings and seeing how, even in highly public moments, “there was also an intimacy between the two of them.” 

Michael Murphy, founding principal of MASS Design Group, said his staff worked with Thomas and his team to create a space around the sculpture that visitors can enter to consider the Kings’ accomplishments, as well as those of others working toward justice and equality. 

“Their bond was the seed of an entire social change movement, but so many other people were involved,” he said.

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