Profile: Vinnie Bagwell

Vinnie Bagwell has always been an agent for social, educational, and economic growth in her community via the arts. 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, Highland Beach, MD) to “Legacies” honoring African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans (Memphis), the creative genius of Vinnie Bagwell’s sculptures gives voice to their stories and meaning to their legacies.

The City of Yonkers is proud to call Vinnie Bagwell its “Tradition Bearer.”

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. Presently, 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, 66 years before the Emancipation Proclamation. New York State Council on the Arts has just awarded funding to the City of Yonkers to commission her creation of the first-of-five life-sized sculptures.

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. Presently, she writes for The Harlem Times.

Awards for artistic contributions to the community include:
• Yonkers YWCA “Spirit of the Woman Inspiration Award”, 2015
• New York State Senate Proclamaton of Recognition, 2015, 2011
• U. S. House of Representatives Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition, 2015, 2011
• U. S. 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, base-relief, wall-hanging sculpture, in honor of the “The Father of the Blues” 100th anniversary, 2002.

Community Involvement
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, to engage viewers who may not normally have the opportunity to see the daily creation of sculpture and public art, and the exchange of ideas worldwide.


Enslaved Africans Rain Garden