Art Committee

A report presented to Denton County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019, outlined plans to add a bronze sculpture, granite memorial and kiosks to the Confederate Memorial as per the recommendations of the Denton County Confederate Memorial Advisory Committee.

The committee, formed in November 2017, proposed adding context about slavery to the Confederate Memorial after they unanimously agreed the memorial should stay on the Courthouse-on-the-Square grounds.

The report suggested forming a new committee with appointments by each member of the court. The committee will be tasked with soliciting a request for qualifications for artists across the nation, reviewing responses and narrowing to 3 to 5 finalists, receiving tabletop renderings of proposed selections, seeking public input in the artist selection, drafting an inscription for the granite piece and making a recommendation to Commissioners Court.

Commissioners also heard a detailed report on the county’s ongoing emphasis on African American heritage. 

In the past two decades, Denton County has spent more than $475,000 on everything from establishing the African American Museum and restoring the Woods House to cleaning up St. John’s Cemetery and dedicating historical markers for churches, buildings, parks and, recently, the first Denton County Historical Commission Individual marker in honor of Frederick Douglas Moore.

The Office of History & Culture has collected an estimated 1,300 images depicting African American families who served as landowners, business leaders and educators. It also established the “White Lilacs” tour to go along with Carolyn Meyer’s book published locally in 1993. An estimated 1,700 students have traveled to Denton since 2015 to visit the Denton County Historical Park and Quakertown Park. The book, geared toward middle school students, gives a fictional account of the Quakertown experience.

Denton County also has a free traveling museum that provides an opportunity for schools and organizations across the county to learn more about Denton County’s history. One of the traveling museum topics focuses on African American heritage.

During African American Month in February, around Juneteenth and throughout the year, Denton County provides exhibits, lectures, programs and special tours specifically designed to share the rich African American heritage across the county.

The Office of History & Culture has identified eight African American cemeteries in Denton County. Since 2016, the county has cleaned and maintained the St. John’s Cemetery near Pilot Point for a total cost of $56,375. The county is also in the process of doing title searches on three abandoned cemeteries. The remaining cemeteries are active and maintained by cemetery associations or are on private property.

Denton County has dedicated significant time and resources to ensuring the African American heritage is preserved for future generations.        

New committee appointment

At the Aug. 27, 2019, meeting of the Commissioners Court, the Court voted to appoint a committee to select an artist and provide historical context to the Confederate Memorial.

The Courthouse on the Square Art Committee members include: John Baines (appointed by Judge Andy Eads); Zenobia Hutton (appointed by Commissioner Hugh Coleman); Dwayne Edwards (appointed by Commissioner Ron Marchant); Sheryl English (appointed by Commissioner Bobbie Mitchell); and Bill Lawrence (appointed by Commissioner Dianne Edmondson).

The court also nominated Judge Eads and Commissioner Mitchell to the committee as well.

Staff members assisting this committee include: Dawn Cobb, Director of Community Relations; Scott Arledge, Director of Purchasing; and Peggy Riddle, Director of the Office of History & Culture.

Plan of Action:

In order to fulfill the unanimous wishes of the Denton County Confederate Memorial Advisory Committee, the Courthouse on the Square Art Committee was created as a technical work group with a clearly defined scope and mission to:

  1. Solicit a request for qualifications for artists across the nation
  2. Review responses and narrow to 3 to 5 finalists
  3. Receive tabletop renderings of the proposed selections
  4. Facilitate a public engagement process in the selection of an artist
  5. Work on drafting an inscription on the granite piece.
  6. Make recommendations to Commissioners Court for final approval.

We are advocating for the installation of a recessed 6-foot granite memorial that will be visible through the archway of the existing memorial. Sidewalks will be extended around both memorials to enable easier passage for visitors. This project will also include expanding the sidewalks and reconnecting the water to the fountain.

A historic account of the African American experience to in Denton County to include denouncing slavery will be etched on the granite piece that meets the criteria proposed by the Advisory Committee. The memorial will be a bronze sculpture depicting the African American history to potentially include inlaid relief panels. Kiosks will be located nearby to provide historical information and context.