GSA Establishes Rules for Art in Federal Buildings

On September 25 the General Services Administration (GSA) published new rules regarding the “Art in Architecture” program for federal buildings in order to comply with Executive Order No. 13934, issued by President Trump on July 3.

The Executive Order, titled “Building and Rebuilding Monuments to American Heroes,” required revisions in the “Art in Architecture” program in order to “to prioritize the commission of works of art that portray historically significant Americans or events of historical significance or illustrate the ideals upon which the nation was founded.”

The new rules mandate that “When commissioning works of art...Particular priority should be given to public-facing statues of or monuments to former Presidents of the United States and to individuals and events relating to the discovery of America, the founding of the United States and the abolition of slavery or others who contributed positively to America’s history.”

Further, “GSA shall prioritize projects that will result in the installation of a statue in a community where a statue depicting a historically significant American was removed or destroyed in 2020.”

GSA will require the commissioned works of art depicting a “historically significant American” to be “a lifelike or realistic representation of that person, not an abstract or modernist representation.”

“Historically significant American” is defined as “an individual who was, or became, an American citizen and was a public figure who made substantive contributions to America’s public life or otherwise had a substantive effect on America’s history. The phrase also includes public figures such as Christopher Columbus, Junípero Serra, and the Marquis de La Fayette, who lived prior to or during the American Revolution and were not American citizens, but who made substantive historical contributions to the discovery, development, or independence of the future United States.”

Trump’s July 3 executive order also mandated establishing a statuary park to be named the “National Garden of American Heroes.”

Trump ordered that the National Garden should be composed of statues, including representations of “John Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, Daniel Boone, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Henry Clay, Davy Crockett, Frederick Douglass, Amelia Earhart, Benjamin Franklin, Billy Graham, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Douglas MacArthur, Dolley Madison, James Madison, Christa McAuliffe, Audie Murphy, George S. Patton, Jr., Ronald Reagan, Jackie Robinson, Betsy Ross, Antonin Scalia, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington, George Washington, and Orville and Wilbur Wright.”

The National Garden should be opened for public access before the 250th anniversary of the proclamation of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 2026.

Other statues might also include “the Founding Fathers, those who fought for the abolition of slavery or participated in the underground railroad, heroes of the United States Armed Forces, recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor or Presidential Medal of Freedom, scientists and inventors, entrepreneurs, civil rights leaders, missionaries and religious leaders, pioneers and explorers, police officers and firefighters killed or injured in the line of duty, labor leaders, advocates for the poor and disadvantaged, opponents of national socialism or international socialism, former Presidents of the United States and other elected officials, judges and justices, astronauts, authors, intellectuals, artists, and teachers.”

The executive order notes, “None will have lived perfect lives, but all will be worth honoring, remembering, and studying.”

 

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