Boston's renowned sculptural memorial by Augustus Saint-Gaudens depicting Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment was one of 16 public art works damaged when thousands of protesters descended on Boston Common and the Commonwealth Avenue Mall on Sunday night, reports wbur.
“This monument is considered one of the nation's greatest pieces of public art and the greatest piece to come out of the Civil War,” Liz Vizza, executive director of the Friends of the Public Garden told wbur, “It was, amazingly enough, dedicated 123 years ago on May 31st – the day it was defaced.”
While the large-scale bronze bas-relief had earlier been covered with plywood for protection, the granite backside was exposed and subjected to spray paint.
Known as the Shaw Memorial, the relief depicts the first African American volunteer infantry unit – the 54th Massachusetts Regiment – and their colonel, Robert Gould Shaw on horseback. Saint-Gaudens spent 14 years on the commission before it was unveiled in 1897.
Shaw, and many of the men who fought for freedom with him, were killed in battle. Their stories were retold in the 1989 film “Glory.”
The Shaw Memorial, which is the first stop on the city's Black Heritage Trail, and the other damaged statues have since been cleaned by conservators. Protests against the police killing of George Floyd and systemic racism continued in Boston this week with thousands marching peacefully around the Common, a gathering place for protest over centuries.
Just last week a $2.8 million restoration of the Shaw Memorial kicked-off. Besides major restoration work of the memorial, new signage will be added to the site with QR codes that allow visitors to access an “augmented reality” (AR) app for an interactive experience featuring three narrators telling the stories of the 54th Regiment, as well as the creation of the monument and its history.