What is the future of monuments and memorials in the South, and in America? Ongoing conflicts over Confederate monuments in Charlottesville and the recent opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice dedicated to the victims of lynchings represent two of many conversations taking place in the South that testify to the urgency of the reevaluation of these objects, and implore us to reinvent our practices of commemoration going forward.

Presented by ART PAPERS LIVE and co-organized with Noah Simblist, “Reading Monuments (A Preface)” is a panel discussion that aims to identify what questions we must ask as we reshape the landscape of our memorials and monuments, the contexts for their placement and selection, and their function as means of historical education, as places of healing, and as catalysts for community and urban experience.


Marcel Acosta
Executive Director, National Capital Planning Commission, Washington, D.C.

Bryan Lee Jr.
Designer, Design Justice Advocate, and Founder/Director of Colloqate Design and Paper Monuments, New Orleans, LA

Lauren Woods
Hybrid Media Artist and Visiting Lecturer, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX

Moderated by:
Noah Simblist
Chair of Painting and Printmaking and Associate Professor of Art at Virginia Commonwealth University, and organizer of “Reading Monuments,” which will take form in early 2019 as a coalition of reading groups in southern US cities that deal with both the legacy and future of Confederate monuments.


Marcel Acosta has more than 25 years of experience in urban and transportation planning. As executive director of the federal government’s central planning agency, he oversees a team of urban planners, architects, historic preservationists, and other professionals who are committed to preserving and enhancing the extraordinary qualities of the National Capital Region.

Before joining NCPC in 2001, Mr. Acosta served as senior vice president of planning and development for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), the nation’s second largest public transportation system. As CTA’s chief planner, he developed new capital programs and oversaw successful initiatives that increased ridership and reduced operating costs for the city’s bus and rail systems. Prior to CTA, he held the position of deputy commissioner for the Chicago Department of Planning and Development. Mr. Acosta received a master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is a 2001 Loeb Fellow of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.

Bryan Lee Jr. is a Designer and Design Justice Advocate. He is the founder/Director of Colloqate Design, a nonprofit multidisciplinary design practice dedicated to expanding community access to design and creating spaces of racial, social and cultural equity. Lee most recently worked as the Place + Civic Design Director for the Arts Council of New Orleans and prior to that at the 2014 AIA National Firm of the Year, Eskew+Dumez+Ripple (Architecture) in New Orleans.

Bryan is the founding organizer of the Design Justice Platform and organized the Design As Protest National day of Action. Additionally, he has led two award winning architecture + design programs for high school students through the Arts Council (local) and the National Organization of Minority Architects (national), respectively. He serves on several boards fellowships He was selected as the 2014 NOMA member of the year, 2015 Next City Vanguard Fellow, 2015 International British American Project Fellow. In 2016, Bryan was selected to give a TED Talk and to Keynote at SXSW Eco on Design Justice.

Lauren Woods is a conceptual artist whose hybrid media projects—film, video and sound installations, public interventions and site-specific work—engage history as a lens by which to view the socio-politics of the present. Challenging the tradition of documentary/ethnography as objective, she creates ethno-fictive documents that investigate invisible dynamics in society, remixing memory and imagining other possibilities. She also explores how traditional monument-making can be translated into new contemporary models of commemoration, substituting the traditional marble and granite for new media. Recently, Woods unveiled Drinking Fountain #1, a new media monument to the American civil rights movement, past and present activists/organizers, and the spirit of resistance, located underneath the remnants of a recently rediscovered Jim Crow “White Only” sign. Part sculpture, part intervention, located in the Dallas County Records Building in Dallas, Texas, the installation is part of the larger public artwork, A Dallas Drinking Fountain Project.

Born in Kansas City, Mo. and raised in Texas, Woods holds a B.A. in radio, television and film and a B.A. in Spanish with a sociology minor from the University of North Texas. In 2006, she received her Master of Fine Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute. Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States and internationally, including Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Dallas and Miami, as well as Puerto Rico, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Mali and France. She has been the recipient of grants and awards from numerous institutions including the Creative Capital Foundation, The Tribeca Film Institute, College Art Association, Alliance of Artists Communities and The San Francisco Foundation.

Noah Simblist is Chair of Painting and Printmaking and Associate Professor of Art at Virginia Commonwealth University. He works as a curator, writer, and artist and has contributed to Art Journal, Modern Painters, Art in America, Art Papers, Terremoto, Art Lies, Art Pulse, Art21 and other publications. His dissertation Digging Through Time: Psychogeographies of Occupation focused on the ways that contemporary artists in Israel-Palestine and Lebanon address history. He edited the book Places of a Present Past (New York: Publication Studio, 2015), contributed to Beyond the Aesthetic and the Anti-Aesthetic (eds. James Elkins and Harper Montgomery, Penn State University Press, 2013), Public Servants: Art and the Crisis of the Common Good edited by Johanna Burton (New Museum and MIT Press, 2016), and is in the process of editing a volume about Tania Bruguera’s The Francis Effect, a project co-produced by the Guggenheim Museum, the Santa Monica Museum of Art, and SMU. He has published interviews with Kader Attia, Khaled Hourani, AL Steiner and AK Burns, Omer Fast, Jill Magid, Walead Beshty, Yoshua Okon, and Nicholas Schaffhausen. His curatorial projects include False Flags with Pelican Bomb in New Orleans (2016), Emergency Measures at the Power Station (2015), Tamy Ben Tor at Testsite (2012), Out of Place at Lora Reynolds Gallery (2011), Queer State(s) at the Visual Arts Center in Austin (2011), Yuri’s Office by Eve Sussman and the Rufus Corporation at Ft Worth Contemporary Arts (2010) and was the curatorial team for the 2013 Texas Biennial. In 2016, he was the co-curator and co-producer for New Cities Future Ruins, a convening of artists, designers and thinkers.

Simblist is the organizer of “Reading Monuments,” which will be a coalition of reading groups in southern US cities that deal with both the legacy and future of Confederate monuments. Participants will read journalism, history, and theory to unpack questions of memory, memorialization, monumentality, and the ways in which physical objects and spaces signal historical trauma. “Reading Monuments (A Preface)” is inspired by and seeks to introduce this project.


Funding for ART PAPERS LIVE is provided by the Fulton County Board of Commissioners and the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs for the City of Atlanta.