Artist Ryan Mendoza to Salvage and Recreate Rosa Parks’ Detroit Home in Berlin

The house of the civil rights icon is under the threat of demolition.

Ryan Mendoza, the Berlin-based, American artist whose work often explores memory, is planning on repurposing the facade of American icon Rosa Parks’ original Detroit home for use in his Berlin studio, before an eventual presentation to an open audience.

According to Detroit Free Press, Mendoza was approached by Parks’ niece, Rhea McCauley, after the home was jeopardized by the threat of demolition. “She wanted help preserving the home,” Mendoza said, after the Rosa Parks Foundation reportedly struggled in finding funding to maintain it.

Rosa Parks is, of course, a notable member in American history for her refusal to sit in the back portion of a public bus due to the color of her skin in 1955. Her resistance to bus segregation sparked further civil rights actions during the already-heated era, and she played an essential role in the American story; such resolve led to eventual collaborations with civil rights figureheads, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It goes without question, therefore, as to why salvaging the home—even if only by parts—has significant relevance to the American people and the world alike. “Her memory, her legacy will never die,” Parks’ niece Rhea McCauley said Sunday, according to DFP. “It is an important lesson for the entire country, especially (with) what we’re going through now.”

Ryan Mendoza with The White Houseat Art Rotterdam.Photo: Geert Broertjes, courtesy Art Rotterdam.

Ryan Mendoza with The White House at Art Rotterdam. Photo Geert Broertjes, courtesy Art Rotterdam.

Ryan Mendoza is known for his practice based in the subject of memory, but not without controversy. He is mostly recently associated with creating White House (2016), in which he brought portions of another Detroit-based home from the United States to Europe, hoping to auction it off in the goal to benefit the poverty-stricken city of Detroit.

“The money would go back to the city of Detroit, specifically to the 8 Mile area,” he told the Guardian in February. (The 8 Mile area is particularly noted for being low-income and generally described as marginalized.)

Mendoza’s involvement, however, doesn’t lack self-consciousness or self-criticism. “It should be somebody in the black community doing this, not a white guy. I’m not even from Detroit,” he said.

Yet, he is the only artist who has volunteered to at least partially salvage the home, so his role has become essential.

While exact plans for the home’s facade have yet to be revealed, Mendoza recognizes the importance in preserving Park’s legacy: “Do I leave Rosa Parks’ house to be demolished by the city,” he said, “or do I step up and say ‘OK, I’m going to help (McCauley) preserve the memory and save this house?’ That’s what this project is all about.”

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