On the Banks of Freedom Public Art Installation

On the Banks of Freedom is the (Un)Known Project’s first public art installation located on the banks of the Ohio River, which served as a dividing line between Kentucky – a slave state and Indiana- a free state.

Created by Kentucky based artists, William M Duffy (lead artist and sculptor) and Dave Caudill (co-artist and sculptor), On the Banks of Freedom is a creation of two limestone benches engraved with the names of those who were enslaved in Kentucky along with portraits representing an enslaved man and woman. Intermingled within the names is the word unknown representing the people who lived but whose names are lost to history. The quotes on the back of the benches are from Jefferson County Public School Justice Now participates and Lamont Collins, founder and CEO of Roots 101. Around the base of the benches are broken chains symbolizing freedom. The benches sit atop a concrete platform where sets of footprints representing enslaved people are sandblasted along the border, allowing people to stand in them and look across the Ohio River into Indiana.

The public art installation is located off 10th and Main Street in downtown Louisville along the Louisville Riverwalk. You can find the location on Google Maps.

On the Banks of Freedom was a gift to the City of Louisville from (Un)Known Project and now part of the city’s public art collection.

On the horizon… (Un)Known Project, an artist-led effort to unearth and honor the names and stories of enslaved people, is creating an Augmented Reality experience to bring history to life at (Un)Known Project sites using storytelling, art, and innovative technologies. The web-based mobile experience, launching fall 2024, will generate new and engaging ways to learn about the history of enslavement and its connection to present day experiences through volumetrically captured holograms, environment overlays, and more. This experience is being developed through a collaboration with Collimation and MindWise with support from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund and Fund for the Arts. In addition, Metastage and Arcturus are assisting with the volumetric capture and delivery. The first sites that will be activated include (Un)Known Project’s On the Banks of Freedom and In Our Elders’ Footprints public art installations in Louisville, KY, the project-specific art installation at Frazier History Museum, and two cemeteries where enslaved people are buried.

Press release: Artist William M. Duffy selected for (Un)Known Project Limestone Reconciliation Benches

Photos by Josh Miller and Shachaf Polakow.