Last summer, the Select Board voted to approve the installation of a monument entitled “Something Is Being Done!” – celebrating women who have contributed to Lexington’s history from the 18th to the 21st centuries – on the Visitors Center lawn near the Battle Green. Now, after three years of public process, that monument is already becoming a reality in artist Meredith Bergmann’s light-filled studio in Acton, where she is sculpting intricate figures representing more than 20 women into a double-sided, slender clay gateway 16 feet wide and a little over 11 feet tall. Bergmann will ultimately transform the clay design into a bronze bas-relief through a months-long casting process.
Lexingtonian Margaret Tulip, a Black woman who successfully sued for her freedom in the 18th century, is one of the central figures already carved into the monument. Individuals engaging with the monument will be able to “hold hands” with her by standing in the central archway. Bergmann has not yet sculpted Tulip’s hand, though, because she hopes to have one of Tulip’s ninth-generation descendants, who recently provided pictures of her hands, serve as the model.
Once the clay sculpting is complete, the casting process takes about nine months of work by a group of people, Bergmann said.
But to stay on track to install the monument before the Town’s 250th Battle of Lexington celebration in April 2025, the volunteers behind LexSeeHer need to raise $165,000 by the end of this month.
As of Thursday, they have reached $30,000, LexSeeHer President Jessie Steigerwald and Vice President of Operations Michelle Tran confirmed in an email to LexObserver. Steigerwald said the fundraising target LexSeeHer must meet over such a short timeline is “swear-word frightening,” but believes that the group will meet its goal.
LexSeeHer, a nonprofit, had already raised more than $340,000 prior to this campaign. But inflation has significantly driven up the project price tag, doubling the foundry cost since last year and also increasing the cost of granite, bronze and labor.
If LexSeeHer meets its target goal, the granite plaza forming the monument base will be installed in mid-September of this year, while the monument unveiling is scheduled for May 15, 2024, barring bad weather. “We want to have a date certain because we want to invite the governor, we want to invite our community, we want to coordinate with the schools,” Steigerwald said.
If the group is not able to install the base in the fall, they would still aim for next May, but fitting the entire base and monument installation into a three-week period would be challenging. And if they could not get the monument in by May of 2024, between other planned streetscape construction in the Battle Green Area and preparation for the protracted 250th celebration, the group would not be able to install the monument until after the semiquincentennial festivities.
“That would break our hearts,” Steigerwald said.
On a few days during Women’s History Month, including last Friday, LexSeeHer leaders invited community members to Bergmann’s studio to see progress on the monument for themselves as they spread awareness about their project and fundraising campaign.
Lexington Economic Development Director Sandhya Iyer attended the March 10 monument viewing. “It was wonderful to see the monument physically taking shape,” she wrote in a follow-up email to LexObserver. “The scale and structure were grander than what the community saw in the plans and drawings.”
Iyer added that she thinks the monument “will attract visitors from all over the world to Lexington” and hopes “that this gets installed before the Semiquincentennial to make our narration of the Historic events more holistic with the contribution of female leaders in our community.”
Other community members left their reactions in the guestbook in Bergmann’s studio.
“My favorite part of the sculpture is the scale,” Nicola Sykes wrote. “Women have been small, and in the background for so long – it’s time to be big and present!”
“It’s an amazing piece of work; grand with many vivid figures like you are standing in front of history,” Melanie Lin commented. “Definitely will be educational and inspiring for generations to come.”
Steigerwald encouraged community members to consider spreading the word about the project or donating.
Another monument, the Minute Man Statue memorializing Captain John Parker, is already a natural centerpiece of the annual Battle of Lexington reenactment. “Captain Parker is great and awesome, but he could use company,” Steigerwald said. “So we’re bringing him company.”