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First-of-its-kind National Mall exhibit to debut 6 art installations sharing lesser-known stories

The National Mall presents "Beyond Granite: Pulling Together," six contemporary artists' installations bringing new stories to life in one of the country's most iconic spaces

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News4’s Derrick Ward has a first look at the first-of-its-kind National Mall exhibition, “Beyond Granite.”

A playground telling a story of desegregation in D.C., a sonic memorial to the AIDS crisis and a blooming statue of barrier-breaking singer Marian Anderson are among six temporary art installations debuting this week on the National Mall.

"Beyond Granite: Pulling Together" is the first curated outdoor exhibition of its kind in the history of the National Mall, organizers say. The works spotlight struggles for liberty and equality that aren't reflected in the towering monuments around one of the United States' most iconic spaces.

The installations include the work of six artists with diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds and were curated by Paul Farber and Salamishah Tillet for Monument Lab.

The exhibition will be open from Aug. 18 until Sept. 18. Here's a map of the installations. On Saturday, Aug. 19, curators have planned to host special events and welcome stations with activities from noon to 7 p.m.

The designs were driven by the question: "What stories remain untold on the National Mall?"

Sample rendering showing the design "Of Thee We Sing" at the Lincoln Memorial Plaza as part of the Beyond Granite: Pulling Together exhibition

The artists were asked to draw inspiration from the performance that Marian Anderson, a Black opera singer, did at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 after she was denied a stage in segregated D.C.

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Civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune said the performance “told a story of hope for tomorrow — a story of triumph — a story of pulling together, a story of splendor and real democracy," according to the Beyond Granite team.

“These new installations are opening the doors to a deeper and more meaningful dialogue about what stories we should pass on to the next generation," Executive Vice President of the Trust for the National Mall Teresa Durkin said.

The Trust for the National Mall is presenting the art project in collaboration with the National Capital Planning Commission and the National Park Service. The exhibition, funded by The Mellon Foundation's Monuments Project, explores concepts such as national identity, memory, collectivity, participation and legacy, according to the Beyond Granite team.

"Their temporary art installations, with their large scale and sweeping historical scope, generously invite the public to remember how Americans have gathered and continue to engage the National Mall as a place of play, protest, and patriotism," Tillet said.

Here is a little bit about each exhibition:

Artist rending showing "America's Playground DC" by Derrick Adams at the Constitution Gardens as part of the Beyond Granite: Puling Together exhibit

"America's Playground: DC" by Derrick Adams
📍 Constitution Gardens — East

A playground that reflects the story of desegregated public spaces in D.C. — and yes, kids can play on it.

"For the Living" by Tiffany Chung
📍 Constitution Gardens — West (near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial)

A large-scale map of the world that traces the global routes of Southeast Asian immigrants and refugees.

"Homegoing" by Ashon T. Crawley
📍 Washington Monument — south grounds

A sonic memorial to the AIDS crisis that honors fallen Black queer musicians and spirituality.

Sample rendering showing The Soil You See by Wendy Red Star at the Constitution Gardens as part of Beyond Granite: Pulling Together exhibition.

"The Soil You See..." by Wendy Red Star
📍 Constitution Gardens

A giant fingerprint with the names of the Apsáalooke (Crow) nation chiefs who signed treaties with the U.S. government, in dialogue with the nearby 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence Memorial.

"Of Thee We Sing" by vanessa german
📍 Lincoln Memorial Plaza

A blooming statue of Marian Anderson memorializing her powerful 1939 Lincoln Memorial concert in segregated Washington D.C. She performed on the steps of the memorial after being denied a stage at Constitution Hall, which banned Black performers, according to the National Park Service.

"Let Freedom Ring" by Paul Ramírez Jonas
📍 Smithsonian Metro — north side of 12th Street

An interactive bell tower where visitors can play with a monumental bell and share their personal stories of freedom.

The project also includes a series of events featuring the artists.

"Beyond Granite: Pulling Together" event schedule

Below is what Beyond Granite says about public programming around the exhibit. Go here for the full calendar.

Saturday, Aug. 19 — Kick off Saturday

Welcome stations with activities located across the National Mall from noon to 7 p.m.

"Of Thee We Sing" – Blue Walk, ritual of movement and song, featuring a processional along the perimeter of the Reflecting Pool
🕒 10 a.m. to noon

"America's Playground: DC" - Youth and IntergenPlay Day (Derrick Adams)
🕒 Noon to 4 p.m.

"Let Freedom Ring" - Bell Giveaway and Song Re-Writing Workshop (Paul RamIrez Jonas)
🕒 Noon to 4 p.m.

Friday, Aug. 25

"The Soil You See…" - Indigenous Archives Conversation (Wendy Red Star)
🕒 2 p.m. - 3 p.m.
📍 United States Institute of Peace Headquarters, 2301 Constitution Ave, NW

Saturday, Sept. 9

"For the Living" - Public Conversation and Mapping Workshop (Tiffany Chung)
🕒10 a.m. - 12 p.m.

"Homegoing" - Live Musical Performance (Ashon T. Crawley)
7:30 p.m.
📍 Sylvan Theater, on the Washington Monument Grounds

To learn more about "Beyond Granite: Pulling Together" visit the project's website.

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