Master sculptor commission by State of Florida for Mary McLeod Bethune Monument in Statuary Hall U. S. Capitol

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VAS Connoisseur Sal with Nilda Comas, master sculptor, and Bethune-Cookman Chamber Choir Special Guests: President and dignitaries from Bethune-Cookman University

The VAS Connoisseur Salon begins with wine and hors d’oeuvres at 6 p.m., in the main lobby of NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale. VAS is honored to have as our special guests Dr. E. LaBrent Chrite, President of Bethune-Cookman University (BCU) in Daytona Beach, Florida, as well as other distinguished BCU representatives and dignitaries from throughout the State of Florida. We invite everyone to join us across the breezeway in the museum’s  Horvitz Auditorium at 7:00 pm for a multi-faceted presentation about the extraordinary life and contributions of Mary McLeod Bethune that will include rare video clips, photos, and personal “insights” by President Chrite and Dr. Jacqueline Hayward.

This unique VAS Connoisseur Salon with Nilda Comas, master sculptor, gives an extremely rare opportunity with the artist to learn about this historic commission as well as the research, inspiration, technique, and experience necessary for undertaking such a daunting project. Nilda will lead us through the step by step process of first winning the commission…then the concept, development, and execution of a master sculptor. Mary McLeod Bethune will be the first African American to be part of the National Statuary Hall’s Collection. Nilda travels between her studio in Fort Lauderdale and her studio in Pietrasanta, Italy where she is currently working on the eight-foot clay model for the marble sculpture.
VAS is thrilled to also present a “cameo” musical performance by the Bethune-Cookman Chamber Ensemble. Following the Art Salon please join us in the main lobby of the museum for champagne and dessert with Nilda and all our special guests of honor!

Following the Art Salon please join us in the main lobby of the museum for champagne and dessert with Nilda and all our special guests of honor!

Nilda was born and raised in San Juan Puerto Rico and will be the first Hispanic woman to sculpt a portrait for the National Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. The monument will be a total of 11 feet, including the base, and will be sculpted in Statuario marble extracted from the same cave in Carrara, Italy that has been used for centuries by history’s greatest artists such as Michelangelo cave in Carrara, Italy. Since last January this cave of Michelangelo was closed by the Italian Government after over 500 years. This block was the largest perfect block excavated from this cave in many years. Nilda’s works are part of public and private collections in the U.S., Europe and South America. Comas divides her time between Fort Lauderdale and Pietrasanta, Italy, where she At the Studio Franco Cervietti in Pietrasanta, Italy, Nilda learned the techniques of marble carving while attending the Accademia de Bella Arti di Carrara. She also studied under master carver Enzo Pasquini.

Since learning that Mary McLeod Bethune — founder of Bethune Cookman University, the National Council of Negro Women and co-founder of the United Negro College Fund — would be Florida’s representative in the place she describes as “the most important place in the world where the most important decisions in the world are made,” Comas has immersed herself in the life of the influential educator and stateswoman to prepare herself for what may become the most important work of her career.

Comas is working from nearly 300 photographs of Bethune provided by the Library of Congress and consulting with Bethune-Cookman University librarians, archivists and the University’s Office of Legacy and Women’s Initiatives to arrive at the image of Bethune.

“I listened to speeches so I could hear her voice,” said Comas. “She had a way of speaking that was so educated, so direct and yet so gentle. That takes a lot of confidence. I think she had so much confidence and that is one of the things that impressed me about her. I can see that someone who could be like that could accomplish so much.”

Comas has visited the Library of Congress and Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site in Washington, D.C., and last week she visited the Mary McLeod Bethune Foundation home in Daytona Beach, Florida, to glean insights into Bethune’s life and influence.

“I want to know as much as I can about Mary McLeod Bethune to see what was inside this body, what moved her to care about so many causes, what was right – the ideals. I want to know everything about her and how she came to be,” she said. “She was an excellent communicator and I am impressed by the manners and respect that she had for everyone.”

Please see videos at: www.thewestsidegazette.com #1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pw0s0agyrFo

Video #2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KoEy9wupt3g

Up Close & Personal “Artist’s Presentation” about her commission by the State of Florida for a larger than life-size monument of Mary McLeod Bethune to represent the State of Florida at the US Capitol as part of the National Statuary Hall’s permanent collection. Friday, August 2, 2019 6-9 pm at NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale One East Las Olas Blvd Ft Lauderdale, Fl 33301. From 6:00 Wine & hors d’oeuvres in main lobby then at 7:00 Presentation/Performance in Horvitz Auditorium finally at 8:15 Champagne & dessert with Artists in main lobby

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     To date, more than $300K has been contributed to the ongoing National Statuary Hall Campaign. The statue is expected to be unveiled in the nation’s capital in 2020.

Nilda Maria Comas’ work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions, museums and galleries in the U.S. and abroad. She has received numerous grants and awards: a bronze medal and two Agopoff Memorial Prizes from the National Sculpture Society in New York, of which she recently became an “elected” member; first prize from the Hambro Bank, London; and The Award for Excellence from the Society of Women Artists in London. Her works have been exhibited at the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens, Palm Beach; the National Sculpture Society, New York; Accademia di Belli Arte Carrara, Italy; Chiostro di Sant’Agostino, Italy; and Westminister Gallery, London.

Nilda earned a B.FA from the University of Houston. By receiving the Andy Warhol Scholarship, she was able to earn an M.FA from The New York Academy, graduating Cum Laude. She attended the Accademia di Belli Arte in Carrara, Italy to perfect her techniques for sculpting marble.  She has assisted on many projects at the Cervietti Studio in Pietrasanta, Italy, including the largest stone Bas Relief in the U.S., which was commissioned for the Basilica in Washington, D.C. and at Fonderia del Chiaro in Pietrasanta, Italy, she worked on a 65ft monument to wine for the city of Bordeaux, France, assisting the sculptor Ivan Theimer.

Please see videos at: www.thewestsidegazette.com #1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pw0s0agyrFo

Video #2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KoEy9wupt3g

Up Close & Personal “Artist’s Presentation” about her commission by the State of Florida for a larger than life-size monument of Mary McLeod Bethune to represent the State of Florida at the US Capitol as part of the National Statuary Hall’s permanent collection. Friday, August 2, 2019 6-9 pm at NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale One East Las Olas Blvd Ft Lauderdale, Fl 33301. From 6:00 Wine & hors d’oeuvres in main lobby then at 7:00 Presentation/Performance in Horvitz Auditorium finally at 8:15 Champagne & dessert with Artists in main lobby

 

Mary McLeod Bethune was an educator and activist, serving as president of the National Association of Colored Women and founding the National Council of Negro Women.

Born on July 10, 1875, in Mayesville, South Carolina, Mary McLeod Bethune was a child of former slaves. She graduated from the Scotia Seminary for Girls in 1893. Believing that education provided the key to racial advancement, Bethune founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute in 1904, which later became Bethune-Cookman College. She founded the National Council of Negro Women in 1935. Bethune died in 1955.

Born Mary Jane Mcleod on July 10, 1875, in Mayesville, South Carolina, Mary Mcleod Bethune was a leading educator and civil rights activist. She grew up in poverty, as one of 17 children born to former slaves. Everyone in the family worked, and many toiled in the fields, picking cotton. Bethune became the one and only child in her family to go to school when a missionary opened a school nearby for African-American children. Traveling miles each way, she walked to school each day and did her best to share her newfound knowledge with her family.

Bethune later received a scholarship to the Scotia Seminary (now Barber-Scotia College), a school for girls in Concord, North Carolina. After graduating from the seminary in 1893, she went to the Dwight Moody’s Institute for Home and Foreign Missions (also known as Moody Bible Institute) in Chicago. Bethune complete her studies there two years later. Returning to the South, she began her career as a teacher.

“I leave you a thirst for education. Knowledge is the prime need of the hour.” -Mary McLeod Bethune

For nearly a decade, Bethune worked as an educator. She married fellow teacher Albertus Bethune in 1898. The couple had one son together—Albert Mcleod Bethune—before ending their marriage in 1907. She believed that education provided the key to racial advancement. To that end, Bethune founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro Girls in Daytona, Florida, in 1904. Starting out with only five students, she helped grow the school to more 250 students over the next years.

Bethune served as the school’s president, and she remained its leader even after it was combined with the Cookman Institute for Men in 1923 (some sources say 1929). The merged institution became known as the Bethune-Cookman College. The college was one of the few places that African-American students could pursue a college degree. Bethune stayed with the college until 1942.

Activist and Advisor

In addition to her work at the school, Bethune did much to contribute to American society at large. She served as the president of the Florida chapter of the National Association of Colored Women for many years. In 1924, Bethune became the organization’s national leader, beating out fellow reformer Ida B. Wells for the top post.

Bethune also became involved in government service, lending her expertise to several presidents. President Calvin Coolidge invited her to participate a conference on child welfare. For President Herbert Hoover, she served on Commission on Home Building and Home Ownership and was appointed to a committee on child health. But her most significant roles in public service came from President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In 1935, Bethune became a special advisor to President Roosevelt on minority affairs. That same year, she also started up her own civil rights organization, the National Council of Negro Women. Bethune created this organization to represent numerous groups working on critical issues for African-American women. She received another appointment from President Roosevelt the following year. In 1936, she became the director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration. One of her main concerns in this position was helping young people find job opportunities. In addition to her official role in the Roosevelt administration, Bethune became a trusted friend and adviser to both the president and his wife Eleanor Roosevelt.

Later Years and Legacy

One of the nation’s leading educators and activists, Mary Mcleod Bethune spent much of the rest of her life devoted to social causes after leaving Bethune-Cookman College in 1942. She took up residence at its new National Council of Negro Women headquarters in a Washington, D.C., townhouse in 1943 and lived there for several years. An early member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, she helped represent the group at the 1945 conference on the founding of the United Nations along with W.E.B. DuBois. In the early 1950s, President Harry Truman appointed her to a committee on national defense and appointed her to serve as an official delegate to a presidential inauguration in Liberia.

Eventually returning to Florida in her retirement, Bethune died on May 18, 1955, in Daytona, Florida. She is remembered for her work to advance the rights of both African Americans and women. Before her death, Bethune penned “My Last Will and Testament,” which served as a reflection on her own life and legacy in addition to addressing a few estate matters. Among her list of spiritual bequests, she wrote “I leave you a thirst for education. Knowledge is the prime need of the hour.” Bethune closed with ‘If I have a legacy to leave my people, it is my philosophy of living and serving.”

Since her passing, Bethune has been honored in many ways. In 1973, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp with her likeness in 1985. In 1994, the U.S. Park Service bought the former headquarters of the NCNW. The site is now known as the Mary Mcleod Bethune Council House National Historic Site.

 

 

 

 

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    About Carma Henry 13990 Articles
    Carma Lynn Henry Westside Gazette Newspaper 545 N.W. 7th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311 Office: (954) 525-1489 Fax: (954) 525-1861

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