Decades after Gordon Parks strolled the streets of St. Paul armed with a camera, his family and supporters are taking steps to memorialize the legendary photographer in the city where he got his start.
Residents interested in learning more about a plan to develop a Gordon Parks Memorial in downtown St. Paul can contribute ideas for it during the city’s annual Rondo Days celebration Saturday.
“Gordon Parks will once again take his rightful place in downtown St. Paul to be a symbol for others,” said his great-niece Robin Hickman.
Parks, who died in 2006 at age 93, launched his career as a photographer in the 1940s when he was given the chance to photograph gowns for Frank Murphy’s St. Paul clothing store.
He went on to capture American culture in his photographs “with a focus on race relations, poverty, civil rights, and urban life,” shooting such notable people as Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X for Life magazine, according to the Gordon Parks Foundation.
In addition to his work with a camera, Parks was also an accomplished composer, author and filmmaker.
The memorial site is planned for the Landmark Center plaza, near the spot where he got his first break at Frank Murphy’s, and the St. Paul Hotel, where he also worked.
The memorial idea was first discussed in 2006, months after Parks died, Hickman said. It was formally launched in 2011, after Hickman received state grant money to help with her “In the Footsteps of Gordon Parks” initiative to continue Parks’ legacy.
Since then, Parks family members, artists and city officials have discussed their vision for the memorial, Hickman said.
Hickman’s SoulTouch Productions has partnered with Forecast Public Art to lead the planning process. The plan is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year and will be followed by a fundraising campaign.
At this weekend’s Rondo Days celebration, residents will be able to offer ideas for the memorial by filling out a survey or participating in an interview. They can participate in the planning from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Rondo Education Center at 560 Concordia Av. in St. Paul.
Another public event to solicit ideas is planned for downtown St. Paul in September. Residents can also take an online survey to share ideas at http://tinyurl.com/GordonParksMemorial.