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Theaster Gates

Commissioned by the Mellon Foundation, A Monument to Listening is a permanent public installation work in Memphis along the Mississippi River at Tom Lee Park. The installation is conceived of 32 functional sculptures made from honed basalt, representing the lives Tom Lee saved.

I want Tom Lee to be remembered as a human who saw other human lives as equally valuable, if not more valuable, than his own. I invite you to visit the site and have the same encounter with your own humanity. - Theaster Gates

On May 8, 1925, the M.E. Norman set sail to inspect revetment work at Pinckney Landing, two miles downriver of Memphis. In his small wooden skiff Zev, Tom Lee rescued 32 passengers from the numbing waters. His rescue was all the more remarkable as Lee himself could not swim. Alongside the 32 functional sculptures, Tom Lee and his courageous sacrifice are represented by one supplementary towering sculpture made from polished basalt. It is the only form within the installation that has a reflective surface.