Theaster Gates’ Famed Sculpture Sits…and Waits

A gray stone slab inscribed with the words, "Until real heroes bloom, this dusty plinth will wait."

A new campus installation awaits heroes to take their place in America’s history of race relations.

A newly installed sculpture on Drexel’s campus, “Monument in Waiting,” offers a quiet counterpoint to the noisy national debate over Confederate and colonialist statues and creates a space for reconsidering history and heroes.

Featuring reclaimed stone plinths and granite tiles, the spare monument represents one of the first public sculptures to appear in Philadelphia by Chicago artist Theaster Gates, whose work has appeared in major museum exhibits from New York to Munich and from Washington, D.C., to Tokyo.

Gates, who teaches at the University of Chicago, draws on his earlier vocational pursuits in public service, urban planning and religious studies, celebrating overlooked spaces and elevating the experience of Black communities in the context of history, culture and land development.

“Until real heroes bloom, this dusty plinth will wait,” an inscription engraved on one of the plinths proclaims.

The monument will be located until summer 2023 on Korman Quad, on 33rd Street, between Chestnut and Market streets.

“Our democracy was born in Philadelphia on a set of ideals,” President John Fry says. “Having Theaster Gates’ magnificent ‘Monument in Waiting’ installed at a busy pedestrian thoroughfare at the heart of Drexel’s campus will give all passersby the opportunity to pause in contemplation about the progress we have made toward fulfilling those ideals, and the distance left for us to travel.”