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Trump’s National Garden of American Heroes Pushes Another Modernism Ban

The project winds back the clock on the U.S. approach to memorials and public art.

During a speech at Mount Rushmore on July 3, Trump said he would establish a new National Garden of American Heroes. All statues in the statuary park “should be lifelike or realistic representations of the persons they depict, not abstract or modernist representation,” he said in his order. 

During a speech at Mount Rushmore on July 3, Trump said he would establish a new National Garden of American Heroes. All statues in the statuary park “should be lifelike or realistic representations of the persons they depict, not abstract or modernist representation,” he said in his order. 

Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg

President Donald Trump outlined the case for his reelection in divisive terms over the Fourth of July weekend. At a rally on Friday at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota, the president painted the national protests over the police killings of Black people as a threat to free speech and American individualism. On the Fourth, Trump went further, comparing wars against Nazis and fascists to “defeating the radical left” in an address from the White House. Wrapped in the vestments of office, Trump hammered on the culture war, putting more emphasis on defending statues than defeating coronavirus.

The president even put down a stake in his campaign on symbolism: On July 3, Trump signed an executive order authorizing a new National Garden of American Heroes. The 31 figures named in the inaugural class for this statuary park could serve as a U.S. History Hall of Fame, with shoo-ins such as Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony alongside more debatable inductees like World War II soldier Audie Murphy and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. (Notable omissions include Franklin Roosevelt, Nat Turner, and any Native American.) The site of the National Garden of American Heroes is still TBD; the president wants to see it opened before the nation’s 250th birthday in 2026.