Project Overview

The City of Memphis and UAC commissioned Cliff Garten Studio, in partnership with JPA, Inc., to honor the incredible legacy of the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers - 50 years after the strike that brought Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. back to Memphis where he was ultimately assassinated. 

The site for the plaza is adjacent to Clayborn Temple, a strategic center that served as a local hub and staging area for the Civil Rights Movement and a place of refuge for the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Worker’s strike.

The central sculpture is comprised of 15’ tall stainless steels letters forming the iconic phrase I AM A MAN. Quotes and speeches from prominent civil rights leaders are included in various components of the built environment supporting the sculpture, as well as on the letters themselves. The letters are reflective, urging viewers to see themselves as part of the structure, and therefore, part of the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement. 

Engagement workshops in different venues throughout the city were implemented to share the design with Memphians and review the text identified to be included throughout the plaza. The workshops also included conversations about the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike and what it means to honor their legacy and all of those involved in the Civil Rights Movement in a contemporary setting.

Watch a time lapse video created by Allworld Project Management. 


About the Artist

Cliff Garten

Cliff Garten is an internationally recognized sculptor and founder of Cliff Garten Studio in Venice, California.

By connecting people to places and infrastructure through sculptural material, social history and ecology, Garten's work locates the latent potential in every public place and situation to become more than the specific functions it appears to perform. Sculpture and landscape, function and form, like public and private experiences are never distinct, but exchange places throughout the day. Sculpture defines our interaction and movement by creating energy between things, generating interest in public activity, reframing our private lives and creating a sense of place within public and private realms.

Garten received a Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design and a Master of Landscape Architecture with Distinction from the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

The Cliff Garten Studio Team also consists of: