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The Artist Tina Allen
(Source:  Battle Creek Enquirer June 29, 1998)

TinaAllen-icon.jpg (5717 bytes)Finding the one artist with a vision bold enough to capture the force of Sojourner Truth's life and message was not an easy task.

But after a national search by the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women (NANBPW) Tina Allen, the internationally renowned sculptor and painter from Los Angeles, was the obvious choice.

She brings impressive credentials to the commission. Best known for her larger-than-life representations of black leaders, Allen has sculpted bronze images of Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, labor leader A. Phillip Randolph and South African president Nelson Mandela. Her most recent work was a 12-foot statue of author Alex Haley, dedicated in Knoxville, Tennessee, in April.

Allen grew up in Alabama and the West Indies in an artistically creative family and began painting at the age of five. Just five years later she was discovered by William Zorach, one of the world's greatest contemporary sculptors.

She studied at the School of Visual Arts and the Pratt Institute in New York as well as the University of Venice in Italy. At a young age she won the 1986 New York State Art Competition, which launched her career as a figurative artist.

A social activist as well as an artist, Allen feels a particular affinity for Sojourner Truth. Like the 19th century woman, Allen sees herself as a communicator and teacher. "All my works are narratives. I feel very much like a writer who makes objects and paintings. I'm interested in the communicative potential of art to heal our souls."

Allen has visited Battle Creek twice in the process of designing the Sojourner Truth monument. She has worked closely with city officials, members of the Sojourner Truth Commemoration Committee and the local chapter of the NANBPW in determining the design of the monument.

She has also received valuable comments from local residents on how Truth should be portrayed.

"We know that people want her to be shown as an orator, since she was known as a speaker," Allen said. "She will have one hand placed on a Bible on top of a pulpit and the other will be drawn back, compelling one to draw closer and hear what she has to say."

Allen's work appears in the permanent collections of some of the most important institutions in the country, including the Schomberg Center and the Pratt Institute in New York, the King Center in Atlanta, Georgia, and the Museum of Afro-American Art in Los Angeles. Private collectors as varied as Bill Cosby, Muhammad Ali and Bishop Desmond Tutu own her work.

Allen hopes the Sojourner Truth monument will become a place where people can gather and reflect upon Truth's spirit and how the Battle Creek community supported her during the difficult years throughout the Civil War and Reconstruction.

For Allen, molding her monumental lifelike figures is "writing our African-American history in bronze" and giving both black and white children positive role models. "I am not just doing this for you, " she said. "I am doing this project for me."

 

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