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Art Imitates Life: Vinnie Bagwell

Vinnie Bagwell is a renowned American sculptor, known for her representational-figurative art pieces that use traditional bas-relief techniques as visual narratives. Her preferred mediums are bronze and bronze resin. With a long list of awards and public-art commissions to her name, Vinnie has earned widespread recognition for her exceptional work in the field of sculpture.

Born in Yonkers, New York, Vinnie’s gift for drawing was apparent from an early age. She honed her passion for painting during her high school years and went on to pursue a degree in art from Morgan State University. Vinnie is an untutored artist who started sculpting in 1993.

In 1992, Vinnie Bagwell co-authored a book titled “A Study of African-American Life in Yonkers From the Turn of the Century” with Harold A. Esannason. She also contributed articles to various publications, including The Harlem Times and Gannett Suburban Newspapers/The Herald Statesman.

Vinnie’s groundbreaking contributions to public art have played a significant role in reframing it to include historic Black images. Her first public artwork, “The First Lady of Jazz” at the Yonkers Metro-North/Amtrak train station, was commissioned by the City of Yonkers. It is the first public artwork of a contemporary African-American woman to be commissioned by a municipality in the United States. In Connecticut, her 7-foot-tall bronze statue of “Walter ‘Doc’ Hurley” was the first public artwork of a contemporary African American in the state.

Vinnie is currently working on “The Enslaved Africans’ Rain Garden,” an urban-heritage public-art project commissioned by the City of Yonkers. The project features five life-sized bronzes to commemorate the legacy of the first enslaved Africans to be manumitted by law in the United States, 64 years before the Emancipation Proclamation. She is also in the process of creating “Victory…,” an 18-foot-tall angel outside New York City’s Central Park on Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation commissioned Vinnie to create the 7-foot-tall “Sojourner Truth” in 2020, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and the Women’s Suffrage Movement for the Walkway Over the Hudson in Highland. She has also received public art commissions from the District of Columbia Department of General Services for “What’s Going On!”, a statue of music icon Marvin Gaye, “The Man in the Arena” (Theodore Roosevelt), “Contraband,” and “The Immortals.” The City of Memphis commissioned “Legacies” at Chickasaw Heritage Park, and Hofstra University commissioned “Frederick Douglass Circle,” the 24-inch-tall maquette, which is the centerpiece of the Frederick Douglass Museum and Cultural Center in Highland Beach, MD.

Vinnie Bagwell’s work has also extended to the theatre, with Director Ruben Santiago-Hudson commissioning her to create the piano artwork for August Wilson’s play, “The Piano Lesson” for the on-Broadway Signature Theatre in New York City. Her work has been exhibited at various venues, including the inaugural, year-long exhibition to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides at the new Freedom Rides Museum in Montgomery, where her 22-inch-tall bronze statue, “Liberté,” was displayed.

Vinnie Bagwell’s creativity and exceptional talent as a sculptor have given voice to stories that might have otherwise gone untold. Her work is a testament to the power of art to convey meaning and preserve legacies.

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