Residents discuss options for Monument Avenue as debate over statues continues

Defining context of Confederate monuments

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - There is a continued conversation about the Confederate monuments in Richmond.

Right now, the Valentine Museum is home to an international competition related to the future of those monuments and you can get involved in sending a symbolic message to local decision makers.

This isn’t a debate about whether the monuments should stay or go. Instead, it centers around the idea of what could be during a period of such uncertainty.

"Part of what we’re trying to do is tell the stories not just because its history but because it has an impact today,” Matthew Freeman said Tuesday night at a community conversation event at the Valentine Museum.

The latest idea from local leaders is that maybe a context is needed to justify the monuments that adorn Monument Avenue.

“Context. Whose context? Whose narrating this context?” Valerie Cassel Oliver of the VMFA said Tuesday.

“Does that mean we put up a plaque? Does that mean we alter something around the monument? What does that actually mean?” Eric Steigleder asked.

"We can read these symbols as one thing and they stand for other people as other things,” Oliver added.

To help gain possible solutions, the Valentine Museum is hosting an art exhibit that features designs created by anonymous artists from all over the world who are chiming in on what Monument Avenue could look like years from now.

"They’re all in depth and all very different approaches on ways to offer context,” Steigleder added.

You can have a say on which concept is considered the winning idea. It’s all hypothetical of course but it could send a symbolic message to those who have the power to decide what change looks like, if at all.

"This is really amazing conversation that I wish was happening in front of our legislators,” an attendee told organizers during the forum.

The Valentine is featuring the exhibit with the opportunity for you to vote through November.

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