The planners behind the desire to erect a sculpture of Marian Anderson in her hometown are researching potential artists and, for the first time, have set out a detailed timeline for the project’s completion.
On Sunday – the 125th anniversary of Anderson’s birth – the project will begin soliciting RFQs (requests for qualifications) from artists interested in submitting proposals to design the piece.
Meanwhile, fundraising has progressed to around a third of the amount needed, and a benefit concert hosted by opera star Denyce Graves is in the works.
“It’s full steam ahead,” said Fred Stein, one of the project’s organizers. “We’re so optimistic about audience input and our artistic pursuit, to ensure that every facet of our community not only participates but is ultimately thrilled with the outcome.”
The sculpture honoring the Philadelphia contralto and civil rights leader would be the first “likeness of an African-American woman named permanent to be honored in sculptural form in the city of Philadelphia,” the RFQ states. The aim is “to display a strong resemblance to Marian Anderson, to capture the powerful and gifted spirit of the contralto as well as her energy as a civil rights pioneer and her dignity in the face of injustice”.
Planned to be located outside the Academy of Music, the sculpture is already envisioned to be cast by the artist in traditional bronze.
“It obviously has to be someone already experienced in figurative sculpting, and it has to be a nice likeness to Marian Anderson,” said Theresa Rose, the Philadelphia art consultant working with the project.
RFPs must be submitted by May 1, and semi-finalists will be chosen by the end of May. Finalists are expected to submit proposals in September, with an artist to be selected later in the month.
A consecration is scheduled for late spring or early summer 2023.
The winning artist and design will be determined based on “artistic merit, technical skill, and likeness to Marian Anderson,” the RFQ says, with concerns for long-term maintenance, durability, and public safety. also defined as major selection criteria.
Artists of color and female artists are strongly encouraged to apply. “It would be ideal to have someone who is both,” Rose said.
Anderson, who died in 1993 at age 96, is perhaps best known for a 1939 concert at the Lincoln Memorial after she was turned away from Constitution Hall because of her race. She was widely adored as a song recitalist and was the first black artist to perform in a leading role at the Metropolitan Opera.
Philadelphia has raised the idea of a sculpture in his honor for years, but the current effort took shape after a November 2020 Inquirer column was published advocating the idea.
The total budget for the project is $1.3 million, Stein said, of which $465,000 has already been raised. This sum includes not only the costs associated with designing and making the sculpture, but also an endowment for upkeep once it is built and the start of an endowment fund for the Marian Anderson Historical Society and Museum, South Philadelphia’s house-museum dedicated to Anderson.
The Broad and Locust sculpture is planned with special lighting as well as some sort of sound element.
The winning commission will be chosen by a jury in the process of being set up. A separate advisory committee will also provide expertise and advice.
The public will have the chance to have their say at some point in the process by voting online on the proposals prepared by the semi-finalists.
The artist and exact style are still undetermined, but the RFQ says the planners are sure they want a “representative figurative” representation of the singer rather than something more abstract.
Said Rose: “This will be the first African-American woman in a statuesque form [in Center City]so we want people to be able to recognize it.
Donations to the project can be made through the Philadelphia Foundation, philafound.organd the price request is available by e-mail [email protected].