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Design for Arkansas 'Monument to the Unborn' revealed

Lakey Goff presented this artistic rendering of the proposed monument, with flower boxes on both sides.
Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission
A rendering by artist Lakey Goff shows the proposed monument, with flower boxes on both sides.

A state committee continues its work to build a pro-life memorial on the Arkansas Capitol grounds.

The “Monument to the Unborn” was created through a law the legislature passed in 2023. Bill sponsor Sen. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, said the monument would be “tastefully done.” He wanted the memorial to celebrate the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which immediately made abortion illegal in Arkansas.

The Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission along with the Secretary of State are responsible for installing the monument. Last year, the group sifted through submissions from artists across the state. On Tuesday, the commission landed on a living flora wall, put forth by artist Lakey Goff.

“God is doing a new thing with this wall,” Goff said at a Tuesday meeting of the commission. Abortion was only mentioned once during her presentation.

“Part of this living wall idea is a monument to honor the unborn,” she said. “It’s also to honor those who are still alive, survivors, that are the women who have had abortions, the women who have been affected, that they receive healing.”

The wall will be concave and is the same shape as the state Supreme Court building 800 feet away, intended to “echo” its architecture. Along the wall, audio of seven Arkansas waterfalls will play in a constant loop.

On the far right of the wall, a plaque will be adorned with Psalm 139. This verse contains the phrase “you knit me in my mother's womb.” Goff says this verse will serve to “bring honor where there was once shame.”

She said the idea for the wall came to her after looking at other memorials like the National September 11 Memorial which features a living wall. She was also inspired by the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, a wonder of the world that has never been officially located by historians. She suggested contracting with the Michigan-based LiveWall, LLC to build and maintain the monument. They would grow plant boxes and install them on both sides of the wall.

“These walls, they attract pollinators and songbirds,” she said. “There will be little creatures living in the wall.”

Goff envisions the monument as “manicured” and “kinetic.”

Dave Roberts, a landscape architect, said the monument still needs “fine-tuning” as it will be difficult to maintain.

“You’re gonna have plants that do well, and other plants will not,” he said. “You’re going to have a lot of switching out of plants, provided irrigation is working. But I'm not opposed to any of this.”

Roberts also said the design is not conducive to the Americans with Disabilities Act, meaning people with limited mobility could not access it.

The law states the monument must be paid for by private funds. Fundraising for the monument is ongoing.

Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.