Monuments, Public Memory, and the Artist

Friday, June 15, 2:30 pm - 4:00 pm

Memorial projects, particularly now, are complex endeavors filled with many unanticipated and sensitive challenges. These challenges exist from the first spark of an until long after the project is completed, and flow alongside changing community needs, social mores, and shifting understandings of historical and cultural narrative. This session will explore the various thorny to consider when commissioning, decommissioning, and everything in between.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Explore the high-stakes and unique issues associated with memorial projects, and find common best practices among what must be a broad and disparate set of stories.
  2. Learn to balance the expectations and needs of a shifting community, government policy, artist's rights, and the demands of history.
  3. Consider the systemic reality that has led to certain narratives trumping others, and how to dismantle and reconsider the power, impact, and nature of public monuments.



Vinnie Bagwell
Artist/Executive Director
Enslaved Africans' Rain Garden, Inc.
Yonkers, New York

A native New Yorker, Vinnie Bagwell, was born in Yonkers, and grew up in the Town of Greenburgh, in Westchester County. An alumna of Morgan State University, she is an untutored artist, and began sculpting in 1993. Vinnie is a powerful storyteller who knows how to incorporate the story in a finely-tuned, visual portrayal of historical events.

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 public artwork 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, 64 years before the Emancipation Proclamation.

Last year, Vinnie was commissioned to create “What’s Going On!”, a 7’ bronze of Marvin Gaye for the DC Department of General Services. She was also commissioned to create a 7’ bronze of Hartford educator, the late Walter “Doc” Hurley, by the State of Connecticut, which will become the first public artwork of a contemporary 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. 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 as well as her provocative news stories in the Harlem Times newspaper.

From “Frederick Douglass Circle” (a 7’ bronze for Hofstra University and the 24” 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 meaningto their legacies.

Sarah Conley Odenkirk
Fine Art Attorney
Studio City, California

Sarah Conley Odenkirk has practiced law in the area of fine art for more than 20 years. She advises clients in transactional matters related to the arts in the private and public realms, and provides strategic planning guidance through a legal lens.

Sarah is the author of A Surprisingly Interesting Book About Contracts for Artists and Other Creatives; and publisher of an online database and the comprehensive Resource Guide for Public Art in Private Development. She is a frequent speaker at professional conferences in both the legal and art fields.

From 2013-2017 Sarah was the Associate Director of the Sotheby’s Institute of Art’s Art Business and Arts Management masters degree programs at Claremont Graduate University, where she was instrumental in developing the curriculum, ran several conferences on art law and community engagement topics, and was the Professor for Legal Foundations; Public Art; International Transactions; and Cultural Property and Restitution.

Sarah Lindgren
Public Art Administrator
Louisville Metro Government
Louisville, Kentucky

Sarah Lindgren is the Public Art Administrator for Louisville Metro Government where she oversees the Public Art Initiative of Louisville Forward, the city’s integrated approach to economic and community development. She works within the Office of Advanced Planning, which studies the community’s built environment to envision, design, and implement planning solutions that create a vibrant sense of place.

As Public Art Administrator, Sarah manages the city’s collections, exhibitions, and new public art projects. She supports artists, community organizations, and city agencies, including the Commission on Public Art.

Sarah’s background includes arts administration and collection management for institutions including the Saint Louis Art Museum and the Speed Art Museum in Louisville.