Denver was one of nine US cities to receive a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation last month as part of its Monuments Project, a five-year, $250m initiative funding public art across the nation that “more completely and accurately represent the multiplicity and complexity of American stories”. In the Mile-High City, the parks & recreation and arts & venues departments will put the $2.3m in grant money towards an audit of monuments currently on display and community engagement related to statues taken down amid the nationwide racial justice protests of 2020.
Most concretely, it will support the design and construction of a new plaza commemorating the Gang of 19 protest, a milestone for disability rights on 5 July 1978, when activists in wheelchairs protesting the inaccessibility of Denver’s public transit blocked buses at the busy intersection of Colfax Avenue and Broadway. For the next 24 hours, 19 activists lay in the street and prevented the buses from moving. Eventually, officials from Denver’s Regional Transportation District met with the activists and agreed to make a third of the city’s bus fleet wheelchair accessible. “That was the start of something big for people with disabilities,” Barry Rosenberg, one of the activists, told the History Channel last year.