It looks the same as in footage of the Nov. 22, 2014, shooting played over and over for the world to see.
But the gazebo where 12-year-old Tamir Rice, playing with a pellet gun, was shot and killed by police officer Timothy Loehmann is no longer outside the Cudell Recreation Center in Cleveland. It’s on the back lawn of a community arts center on the South Side of Chicago.
“I just wanted to thank everybody for coming out, and the city of Chicago for giving the permit,” Tamir’s mother, Samaria Rice, said at a ceremony Sunday, dedicating the gazebo that has been reassembled at the historic South Side Arts Bank, 6760 S. Stony Island Ave.
After the city of Cleveland decided the gazebo had to go, artist Theaster Gates, working with Rice’s lawyer, Billy Joe Mills, brought the disassembled structure to the Arts Bank in fall 2016.
“Thanks to Theaster for getting the gazebo, and holding the gazebo, and Billy for working to achieve this with the city of Cleveland and Theaster,” the mother said.
Gates, founder of the nonprofit Rebuild Foundation, bought the nearly 100-year-old, then-crumbling Stony Island Trust and Savings Bank Building from the city of Chicago for $1 in 2013 and rehabbed it into a hybrid community center, library and art gallery, with preserving black history as a focus.
“It’s really important that Samaria Rice is present with us to reflect on this memorial being in Chicago,” said Gates, a University of Chicago professor whose work focuses on arts-driven space reclamation in disinvested communities.
“We recognize that because of the history of violent acts against young black males in cities by the police, that this gazebo is a national memorial, a national testament. It’s a national call, and we’re so honored to have it at the Arts Bank,” said Gates, whom Tamir’s mother had called to help her save the gazebo from demolition.
“There were a lot of people that went into the history of preserving this gazebo,” Mills said. “And a lot of the credit goes to the Arts Bank, which was agile, nimble and bold enough to step up and say, ‘We’ll take it. We’ll preserve this. We think it’s an important object of history,’” he said.
“The city of Cleveland gave us only a few weeks, really, to preserve it. They said, ‘We’re going to demolish it, or you gotta figure out where to put it.’ It ended up here, and they’ve done a fantastic job of taking into consideration Samaria’s thoughts, emotions and memories, and presenting it in a way that’s respectful and helps preserve Tamir’s legacy.”
Its wooden beams, teddy bears and other memorabilia that had been left by mourners as a memorial at the gazebo had for the past 2 1⁄2 years sat in a room at the Arts Bank titled “Objects of Care: Material Memorial for Tamir Rice.”
Reassembled this spring, with its dedication coming just days before what would have been Tamir’s 17th birthday on June 25, the uniquely poignant and tragic gazebo — teddy bears and memorabilia displayed on a picnic bench table, a photo of Tamir standing guard — now invites the public to visit as a site of reflection.
Rice is still seeking a permanent site for the gazebo in her hometown of Cleveland.
In one of the early police shooting cases that made headlines this decade, Loehmann was cleared of any wrongdoing, and a grand jury declined to indict Loehmann and his partner, Frank Garmback. The city of Cleveland later settled a wrongful-death suit with the Rice family for $6 million.
“A gazebo is a place of sanctuary and peace and play and gathering, and for Tamir Rice, it was that, until these two officers showed up and made it a place of fear and divisiveness and bloodshed,” said Mills. “What we’re doing here today is taking it back, making it the place Tamir originally intended, a place of sanctuary. In that way, it’s something that can be of great healing to Ms. Rice and the Rice family.”