Baker, a central but often overlooked figure in the Civil Rights Movement, was known for her leadership and outreach work with several civil rights groups as well as her commitment to small, community-led activist groups. She was a field secretary and later national director of branches of the NAACP and the motivating force behind the formation of the Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee (SNCC). She encouraged college students to take on leadership roles by forming their own organizations. Baker’s work empowering college students was one among many reasons she was chosen to be honored. The Ella Baker memorial statue continues Ohio State Newark’s tradition of incorporating engaging public art on campus in order to foster community, create dialogue and commemorate moments of personal and historical significance.
“Baker’s legacy continues to shape struggles for social justice by serving as a model of decentered leadership and grassroots organizing,” says Tiyi Morris, PhD, associate professor of African American and African Studies and director of the Ohio Prison Education Exchange Project at Ohio State Newark.
“Celebrating Baker as an inspiration, teacher, mentor and key facilitator to younger generations of activists will mirror back to students, faculty and the community who we are and what we represent.”
King’s previous art installations include a sculpture of Professor Joseph Gier for the University of California Berkley, a sculpture of Huey Newton for the Huey Newton Foundation, and a sculptural installation at the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. She created a seven-foot bronze statue of William “King” Lanson in New Haven, Connecticut, dedicated in 2020, and three sculptures for The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, representing the women of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. King was a California Arts Council Fellow from 2021 to 2022 and the recipient of the 2021 Artadia Award. She holds four honorary doctorates.
Sculpture is not only King’s art form but also integral to her methodology. She prefers creating sculptures “because they inhabit space, and space is power.” Through her art, she is deeply committed to recontextualizing “a medium often used to elevate Eurocentric and white supremacist statuary.”
Further information about public art at Ohio State Newark can be found at go.osu.edu/publicart.
For more details, please contact Virginia Cope, PhD, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 740-366-9293.