Meeting the 'Banksy of Monuments'
“Today’s the day!”, I told myself when I woke up. I started the day expecting to get a behind-the-scenes look into an unfinished monument, meet the artist, and share it here with everyone. It turned into a day of reflection and new understanding.
I am meeting the “Banksy of Monuments”, Joe Reginella, a sculpture artist who has been commissioned on behalf of I Am Your Protector (IAYP), a national public campaign that brings monument-type sculptures to public places across the country.
The next city for the installation is Nashville, Tennessee. Millions of Conversations (Millions) and Nashville’s Faith & Culture Center (FCC) partnered with IAYP to bring these Protector Monuments to the Centennial Park’s Earth Day celebration on April 23 . A part of the Listen First Coalition’s National Week of Conversation (NWOC), this event serves as a way to create healthy conversation on identity and community.
But before our event in Nashville kicks off, the final monument has to be built in Joe’s studio on Staten Island. I leave my apartment in Brooklyn and head to the Staten Island Ferry.
Joe was born and raised in Staten Island. His family moved to New Jersey when he was younger, but he returned to Staten Island 20+ years ago, and it’s been his home ever since. He mentions that parts of Staten Island struggle to keep up with the changing times. I can relate, as I myself am from what’s referred to as a “pit stop” town in California. Joe and I both agree there’s work to be done in communities across America to bring people together.
We discuss the partnership and collaboration between IAYP, Millions, FCC, and the NWOC campaign, a blending of our missions which serve to build inclusive communities through understanding.
Joe pulls up to his studio. He apologizes beforehand for the mess. I mention, “What artist studio isn’t disheveled from time to time?”.