For Black History Month, the Museum presents a display of the proposed public-art project The Enslaved Africans’ Rain Garden, designed to honor the first enslaved Africans freed by law in the United States. The Project can be viewed at the Museum from February 5 to 28.
The project, developed by Yonkers sculptor Vinnie Bagwell, proposes to commemorate Africans who resided at Philipse Manor Hall in Yonkers – six of whom were among the first to be manumitted by law in the United States, 76 years before the Emancipation Proclamation. The installation features five maquettes (one-third scale sculpture models), architectural drawings of a corresponding park setting, and historical information about slavery in Westchester. Placingthe sculptures within a rain garden is meant to marry culture with nature and foster environmental responsibility.
The Enslaved Africans’ Rain Garden focuses the lives, the feelings, and the legacies of the men, women, and children, who were imbruted and stripped of their human rights. We are invited to think about these Africans ─ where they came from and their families, what languages they spoke, how they lived, their songs, and their very thoughts. These candid images of daily life, rendered in the vernacular of bronze sculpture, are a testament to the resounding triumph of the human spirit. Ms. Bagwell states that “Each character for the Enslaved Africans’ Rain Garden has been designed to remind viewers that artistry is a powerful, useful tool for social transformation ─ one capable of distilling our thoughts and renewing our hopes and aspirations.”
When Yonkers City Councilwoman Patricia McDow attended an exhibit on slavery at Philipse Manor Hall several years ago, she asked, “Where are the slaves buried?” But no one seemed to know. McDow quickly locked onto the idea of a monument commemorating the slaves and reached out to Bagwell, who as co-founder and director of Art on Main Street/ Yonkers, Inc., has managed the development of provocative exhibitions and programs. Among them, a sculpture commemorating Ella Fitzgerald near the Yonkers Metro North train station.
Hudson River Museum, 511 Warburton Avenue, Yonkers, NY. Wed – Sun, 12-5 pm. Museum: $5 adults, $3 seniors & youth 5-16. Children under 4, free. Members Free. Exit 9 (Executive Blvd). Saw Mill River Pkwy (north or south). Info & Dir: 914.963.4550; www.hrm.org
The largest cultural institution in Westchester County, the Hudson River Museum is a multi-disciplinary complex that draws its identity from its site on the banks of the Hudson River, and seeks to broaden the cultural horizons of all its visitors. It engages in the presentation of exhibitions, programs, teaching initiatives, research, collection, preservation, and conservation – a wide range of activities that interpret its collections, interests and communities.