San Francisco will receive a $3 million grant to create more diverse monuments and memorials, Mayor London Breed announced.

In 2020, monuments and memorials with racist and colonial histories around the city were toppled and removed amid demands for racial justice and equity.

The grant will allow the city to continue to “evaluate our public art and its intersection with our country’s racist history so that we can move forward together to make real changes in what is represented in our public art,” Breed said in her announcement.

The city is one of nine municipalities nationwide that is getting a share of $25 million being given out this summer by the Mellon Foundation, which funds arts and humanities projects in the United States as a part of their Monuments Project.

The project commits $250 million over five years to “transform the nation’s commemorative landscape,” according to the organization’s website. Launched in 2020, the fund aims to promote wide recognition and celebration of historically unacknowledged people and stories in the United States.

“Monuments and memorials — the statues, plaques, markers and place names that commemorate people and events — are how a country tells and teaches its story,” the Mellon Foundation website adds. “Who are we instructed to honor and uplift, and who do we not see in these potent symbols?”

The grant will be used to support Pulse Check: Accountability and Activation of Future SF Monuments, a project that is conducting a racial equity audit of public commemorative art in the city’s civic art collection and creating opportunities for community engagement in new monuments and memorials.

A memorial to the extinct Xerces blue butterfly appears on the pedestal where a statue of Saint Junipero Serra previously stood in Golden Gate Park. The “unauthorized sculpture intervention” was removed by San Francisco arts officials on April 28, 2023. The city plans to survey residents to find out their favorite and least favorite public art installations as it works to make such displays more inclusive and reflective of the community’s values. (San Francisco Arts Commission via Bay City News)

The project was borne out of the city’s Monuments and Memorials Advisory Committee, which emerged in 2020 following the removal of three statues from Golden Gate Park by demonstrators. The committee was formed to investigate and make recommendations for public artwork that better “reflects the values of the city,” reads a committee report.

The report detailed a survey conducted in which San Francisco residents were asked, among other questions, about their most hated and liked memorials and monuments around the city. These findings will be used to inform the work of the Pulse Check project.

“This project will engage communities that have historically been excluded from discussions regarding the evaluation of works of art and the process of commissioning new works,” reads the announcement. “It will conscientiously facilitate the creation of contemporary, dynamic, and healing art in the San Francisco landscape.”

Lydia Sidhom is a rising third-year at UC Berkeley studying Data Science and Political Science. She is a Dow Jones News Fund intern for Bay City News. Lydia was a lead beat reporter, deputy news editor and projects developer for The Daily Californian and will be a deputy projects editor there this fall. She enjoys telling stories through data. In her free time, Lydia loves to read, bake and travel.