Sunday, August 06, 2000

Award shining example of artist's work

By Owen Findsen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The most important thing about sculpting an award is that “it shines under the spotlights,” says Ed Dwight, the Colorado artist who created the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center's second International Freedom Conductor Award.

[photo] Ed Dwight's sculture highlights the International Freedom Conductor Award.
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        Suitably unveiled under spotlights, the award was presented Saturday night to Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center's Grand Ballroom in Covington.

        “People want to go "Ahh' when they see the award,” Mr. Dwight says. That's why the the artist included a Lucite flame — to catch the light.

        The ceremony honors the recipient, but part of the honor is the quality of the sculptured award itself. That's why Mr. Dwight, one of the most successful African-American artists working today, was selected to design it.

        Mr. Dwight has had a varied career. He was a test pilot in the Air Force, and the first African-American to be selected for training as an astronaut.

        Then he worked as an engineer, opened a chain of restaurants in Denver and became the largest African-American land developer in the western states.

        Now he operates one of the largest single-artist production and marketing facilities in the West. He has designed more than 55 major memorials around the nation, including the Underground Railroad memorial in Battle Creek, Mich.

        He has the commission to create the Black Patriots Memorial in Washington, D.C. His slavery memorial at the South Carolina capitol “stands right by the place where they had all that controversy about the Confederate flag,” he says.

        His bronze figures created in tribute to jazz history are featured each November at the Great American Art Show in Cincinnati.

        His design for the International Freedom Conductor award is based on “the candle that people would put in their window as a signal to escaping slaves that it was a safe house. We have the glass of the window in Lucite and the flame in bronze. We put the world globe there to indicate that there are people seeking freedom everywhere.”

        Artists' grant: Summerfair is accepting applications for the Aid to Individual Artists Awards program. Four artists will each be awarded $3,000 under the program. Application deadline is Aug. 18.

        Artists, craftspersons and art school students living within 40 miles of Cincinnati can apply by submitting color slides of their work and an explanation of how they will use the grant.

        Money can be used in any way, including purchasing supplies, renting studio space or defraying exhibition expenses. Winning artists will be included in an exhibition in 2001. Winners will be announced by Oct. 31.

        Summerfair is Cincinnati's annual summer arts and crafts festival. Summerfair Inc. also produces other events and has donated more than $250,000 to local artists and arts organizations over two decades.

        Applications are available by calling Summerfair at (513) 531-0050 or sending an e-mail to

        Owen Findsen is Enquirer art critic. Write him c/o Tempo, The Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati 45202; fax, 768-8330.


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