Mediums: Bronze, Sculpture
Vinnie Bagwell has always been an agent for social, educational, and economic growth via the arts in her community. She is an untutored artist, and began sculpting in 1993. She is a powerful storyteller for the African diaspora who knows how to incorporate the story in a finely-tuned, visual portrayal of historical events: From “Frederick Douglass Circle” (7’ Bronze for Hofstra University and the 24” bronze centerpiece for the Frederick Douglass Museum and Cultural Center) to “Legacies” honoring African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans (Memphis, TN), the creative genius of Vinnie Bagwell’s sculptures gives voice to their stories and meaning to their legacies.
Vinnie’s first commission: “The First Lady of Jazz Ella Fitzgerald”–a life-sized bronze–was commissioned by the City of Yonkers in 1996. It is the first sculpture of a contemporary African-American woman to be commissioned by a municipality in the United States. Currently, Vinnie is leading the development of “The Enslaved Africans’ Rain Garden”–an urban-heritage, public-art project for the City of Yonkers to commemorate the legacy of the first enslaved Africans to be manumitted by law in the United States, 76 years before the Emancipation Proclamation. New York State Coucil on the Arts has just awarded funding to the City of Yonkers to commission her creation of the first-of-five life-sized sculptures. Last year the District of Columbia commissioned “The Man in the Arena,” a life-sized, bronze 3/4 bust of Theodore Roosevelt for Roosevelt Senior High School in Washington, DC. She just won the Walter “Doc” Hurly–a Hartford, Ct, educator– public-art project, commissioned by the State of Connecticut. It will become the first public artwork of an African American in the State of Connecticut.
Vinnie co-authored a book titled “A Study of African-American Life in Yonkers From the Turn of the Century” with Harold A. Esannason in 1992. In the mid-90s, many followed her compelling articles about the diversity of Yonkers’ organizations, businesses and cultural events in her weekly column for the Herald Statesman/Gannett Suburban Newspapers.
Awards for artistic contributions to the community include: The Westchester County Elizabeth Catlett Award for Arts and Culture, 2017 | Yonkers YWCA “Spirit of the Woman Inspiration Award”, 2015 | New York State Senate Proclamaton of Recognition, 2015, 2011 | United States House of Representatives Certificate of of Special Congressional Recognition, 2015, 2011 | United States Congress Certificate of Achievement, 2011 | (3) New York State Assembly Citation, 2015 | Certificate of Recognition from the City of Yonkers Mayor, City-Council president, and City-Council District Leader, 2015, 2011 | Westchester County Board of Legislators Proclamation, 2011 | “Artistic Excellence Award” recipient from the Yonkers Friends of the Arts and the Yonkers Downtown-Waterfront Business Improvement District acknowledging “The First Lady of Jazz Ella Fitzgerald” public artwork, 2003 | ArtsWestchester ArtsAlive Grant awarded to create “The Father of the Blues William Christopher Handy,” a3’x4’ bronze-resin, bas-relief, wall-hanging sculpture, in honor of the “The Father of the Blues” 100th anniversary, 2002.
Passionate about her work, Vinnie takes responsibility for outreach efforts to engage the community. Her accomplishments also include hosting community forums, historical symposiums, artist talks, and workshops; curating exhibitions; creating web sites and managing social-media platforms to enable community participation and the exchange of ideas worldwide. With a base of more than 12,000 facebook “friends”, “fans” and “followers”, such activity enables her to engage viewers who may not normally have the opportunity to see the daily creation of sculpture and public art.