Artist Statement

Video courtesy of the artist.


Born in Yonkers, New York, and raised in the town of Greenburgh, artist Vinnie Bagwell is an alumna of Morgan State University and began sculpting in 1993. As an untutored artist, her first public artwork was “The First Lady of Jazz Ella Fitzgerald”, located at the Yonkers Metro-North/Amtrak train station, which was commissioned by the City of Yonkers in 1996. The life-sized bronze is the first sculpture of a contemporary African American woman to be commissioned by a municipality in the United States.

Bagwell’s work has led to series of firsts as she gives voice to many underrepresented peoples. The State of Connecticut commissioned a seven-foot bronze of Hartford educator Walter “Doc” Hurley, which is the first public artwork of a contemporary African American in the state. In 2012, She created a 24” bronze, “Liberté,” for the inaugural exhibition at the Freedom Rides Museum in Montgomery, Alabama. Bagwell has created a statue of Sojourner Truth for Walkway Over the Hudson—the first of several public artworks commissioned to celebrate diversity in the New York State Parks.

In 2018, the District of Columbia Department of General Services commissioned Bagwell for a life-sized sculpture of music-icon Marvin Gaye for a new recreation center in the District of Columbia. In 2019, she was awarded the $1M commission for “Victory Beyond Sims” to replace the J. Marion Sims statue outside Central Park on Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street in New York City.

Bagwell is also a co-founder, the vice president, and executive director of the non-profit Enslaved Africans’ Rain Garden, the fiscal administrator for the initiative for. the urban-heritage public-art project for the City of Yonkers that marks the 400th anniversary of enslaved Africans being brought to America and commemorates the first enslaved Africans to be manumitted/freed by law in the United States, 64 years before the Emancipation Proclamation.

Some of Bagwell’s other public artworks include the creation of the piano for August Wilson’s award winning play, The Piano Lesson (Signature Theater, New York City), “Frederick Douglass Circle” (Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York); a 24” centerpiece at the Frederick Douglass Museum and Cultural Center (Highland Beach, Maryland); and “Legacies” (Chickasaw Heritage Park, Memphis, Tennessee) created to honor African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans.


The First Lady of Jazz Ella Fitzgerald, by Vinnie Bagwell. Bagwell’s first public-art commission and the first sculpture of a contemporary African-American woman to be commissioned by a municipality. Located at the Yonkers Metro-North/Amtrak train station in Yonkers, NY and commissioned by the City of Yonkers. Photographer: Jonathan Lewis.

Sojourner Truth, by Vinnie Bagwell. Image if Bagwell and Sojourner Truth's fifth-generation grandson, Cory Mcliechy for the Walkway Over the Hudson State Park located in Poughkeepsie, NY. Commissioned by New York Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. Photographer: Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo.

Themba the Boatman, by Vinnie Bagwell. One-of-five life-sized bronze sculptures for the Enslaved Africans' Rain Garden, an urban-heritage sculpture garden located in the City of Yonkers, NY. Photographer: Dawn-Marie Sakile Blackwell.



The Piano Lesson, by Vinnie Bagwell. Bas-relief sculpture on a 112-year-old piano for August Wilson's on-Broadway play, "The Piano Lesson", directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson. Commissioned by The Signature Theatre. Photographer: Joan Marcus.

Frederick Douglass Circle, by Vinnie Bagwell located at Hofstra University South Campus and commissioned by Hofstra University. Photographer: Hollis King.