Vinnie Bagwell is currently leading the conception and development of “The Enslaved Africans’ Rain Garden”–a multimillion-dollar, urban-heritage, public-art project for the City of Yonkers, New York, to commemorate the legacy of the first enslaved Africans to be manumitted by law in the United States, 76 years before the Emancipation Proclamation.
In 2011, she created “Liberté”, a 22”h bronze, at the request of the Alabama Historical Commission and the Alabama State Council on the Arts to exhibit in the year-long “Road to Equal-ity: The 1961 Freedom Rides” exhibition to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides at the new Freedom Rides Museum in Montgomery.
Born in Yonkers, New York, Vinnie grew up in the Town of Greenburgh in upstate New York. She displayed a remarkable gift for drawing at an early age and developed a passion for painting in high school. A Morgan State University alumna, Vinnie is an untutored artist, and began sculpting in 1993.
Her portraits display immense spirit and verisimilitude, and have souls which grandly speak for themselves. Vinnie declares, “My pursuit of artistic excellence is grounded in my desire to use sculpture as a visual language that is resonant and has the power to reach out, strike the heart, and enrich the lives of others. Anchored in realism, my style is defined by portraiture which provides insight into hu-man character and shows a precise articulation of the human spirit… Each character is designed to remind viewers that artistry is a powerful, useful tool of social transformation; “Making this artwork gives me a sense of purpose. It is how I serve God and humanity.” – Vinnie one capable of condensing our thoughts, distilling our minds, and renewing our hopes and aspirations.”
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. In 1994, Vinnie’s commitment to the arts aided in the co-founding of Art on Main Street/ Yonkers, Inc. The non-profit, multi-cultural arts organization was instrumental in heightening the awareness of the arts as an agent of social, educational, and economic revitalization for the city’s down-town-waterfront district. As the director of public programs for the Art on Main Street/ Yonkers gallery, she managed the development of a series of provocative exhibitions and programs. The following year, the City of Yonkers commissioned Vinnie to create a life-sized sculpture of music-icon and former Yonkers-resident Ella Fitzgerald to enhance the downtown-waterfront district.
“The First Lady of Jazz Ella Fitzgerald”–the first sculpture of a contemporary African-American woman to be commissioned by a municipality in the United States–was installed in a plaza adjacent to Yonkers Metro North train sta-tion in 1996.
“The Uniques Thelonius Monk” was inspired my Thelonius Monk’s second album.