City to install its first statue of African-American girl

Cherri Gregg
May 13, 2019 - 4:00 am
Philadelphia City Hall.

Holli Stephens/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The City of Philadelphia is gearing up to erect the city's first-of-a-kind piece of public art that's designed to be reflective of the South Philadelphia athletic community. 

The statue will depict an African-American girl around the age of 11. She's standing, wearing a basketball uniform, holding the ball and looking over her left shoulder, ready to make - hopefully- a game winning decision.

"It's an opportunity to sort of celebrate what it means to be a young woman and hopefully sort of inspire confidence and strength," said Margot Berg, public art director for Philadelphia's Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy.

The office oversees over 1,000 pieces of the city's art collection. And while most statues are of white men on horses, Berg says there's been a concerted effort to ensure that with any new city funded renovation project, that the one percent spent on public art, is of art reflective of the community.

"Commissioning a statue in honor of the people that use this place," she added. 

The $25,000 statue will be installed as part of $2.5 million in renovations to Smith Playground in South Philadelphia. 

Artist Brian McCutcheon says it'll be dedicated to the memory of Ora Washington, a Germantown native who won eight straight National Tennis Association titles in the 1930s and spent a decade as a star player with the Philadelphia Tribune's women's basketball team. 

She died in 1971.

But, the statue is not her.

"It was important to me that the sculpture represents contemporary girls who live in the neighborhood currently," he said.

The statue is expected to be installed in June.