Press Release

Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. at the Rothko Chapel

December 18, 2017

Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. at the Rothko Chapel 

Chapel hosts “Monumental Decisions: Art, Politics and Social Responsibility” Monday, Jan. 15

HOUSTON – Dec. 15, 2017 – In honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and as a part of his annual birthday celebration, the Rothko Chapel is hosting a lecture and conversation about the power of symbols in society with monument artist Ed Dwight, Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, and Texas Southern University Art Historian and Curator Dr. Alvia Wardlaw, moderated by ABC13’s news anchor Melanie Lawson

Together, they will explore the fine lines between chronicling and sharing history, preserving works of art and creating a space that promotes justice and peace for all people. 

“Symbols hold power – from flags to monuments – as recent public discussions around confederate monuments have made clear,” the Chapel’s public programs and community engagement director Ashley Clemmer said. “We want to take a serious look at our collective responsibility to ensure that public spaces are available to all people. How do we shape the narrative of the landmarks we place in the public sphere?”

The event “Monumental Decisions: Art, Politics and Social Responsibility” is slated for 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 15 at the Chapel, which is located at 3900 Yupon St, 77006.

The program examines questions, including, “What story do monuments tell? Whose story do they tell? What is our community role in shaping public space?”

Sculptor Ed Dwight will join the Rothko Chapel for the discussion. 

He began making public art in the 1970s, travelling around the country observing few monuments to African Americans. He has created 128 monuments, memorials and public art installations in the past 40 years depicting the contributions of African Americans to America’s landscape.

Dwight will share his journey from Air Force test pilot to the first African American astronaut candidate in the U.S. to prolific public artist. Dwight’s largest memorial to date is the Texas African American History Memorial recently installed on the State Capitol Grounds, in Austin, TX, and dedicated to the Emancipation of the Slaves on Juneteenth Day. He has also created a life-size sculpture of Rev. Dr. King installed in Houston’s Hermann Park.

He will join in conversation with Commissioner Rodney Ellis and Dr. Alvia Wardlaw, moderated by Melanie Lawson to explore the artistic, historical and political realities of monuments in the U.S. 

Ellis represented a Houston district in the State Senate for more than 25 years, before assuming his current post. He was recognized as a leader in economic development, education, civil rights, budget issues, responsible environmental policy, tax cuts for the middle class, criminal justice, and workforce development. 

In addition, he served three terms on the Houston City Council and as chief of staff to the late U.S. Congressman Mickey Leland.

Wardlaw serves as director and curator of the University Museum at Texas Southern University and professor of art history. She has mentored countless students of color to pursue careers in the museum field ranging from curatorial to conservation positions. 

She is the first African American to receive a doctoral degree in art history from the University of Texas at Austin and currently serves on the boards of the Orange Show Foundation and the Emancipation Park Conservancy in Houston. In addition, she was recently appointed as honorary trustee by Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and continues to serve on the Scholarly Advisory Committee of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and as a trustee of Wellesley College.

Lawson is a native Houstonian and award-winning journalist. She has covered virtually every city, state and national election during her career, while also traveling to Cuba, Panama and Africa. She has won numerous awards for her reporting, including an Emmy for her coverage of President Clinton’s visit to South Africa, the only local reporter in the nation to make the trip. 

Lawson has interviewed a range of notable figures, including three U.S. Presidents, Henry Kissinger, the Dalai Lama, poet Maya Angelou, Destiny’s Child, George Foreman, Spike Lee, and Barbara Walters.

For more information about the Rothko Chapel and upcoming events, visit or call 713-524-9839.

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