Philadelphia unveils first statue of African-American girl

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia unveiled the city's first-ever free-standing statue of an African-American girl on Wednesday at Smith Playground in South Philadelphia. 

Titled "MVP," the 5-foot-4-inch, 250 pound bronze statue depicts an African-American girl around 12-years-old. Dressed in a basketball jersey, slightly leaning to one side clutching a basketball, her braided hair is pulled back as she contemplates what looks like a game making decision.

"And she has a serious face on," said 10-year-old Jonah, one of about three dozen kids who attended the unveiling.

The statue does not depict anyone famous. Instead, artist Brian McCutcheon hopes kids "see themselves."

McCutcheon sculpted the piece, which he said was inspired by Ora Washington, a star player for Philadelphia Tribune's women's basketball team during the 1930s. She was also a women's tennis champion for more than a decade. 

"She was one of the greatest athletes of her time, but almost completely unknown," he added.

#GoodNews on @KYWNewsradio - the city’s first free standing statute of an African American girl is unveiled at #SmithPlayground in South Philly. Details on how, why and who the statue is dedicated to on 1060am. #positivenews #publicart

— Cherri Gregg (@cherrigregg) July 31, 2019

MVP was paid for as part of the $2.5 million renovation of Smith Playground. Under the Percent for Art program, the city spends one percent of the total budget. 

The goal now is to make that art reflective of the people who live in the neighborhoods of today.

"The city is committed to celebrating diversity in all initiatives, including in public art," said Kelli Lee, chief cultural officer. "This art work commissioned through the Percent for Art Program is also the newest of the Percent for Art 60, the name of the 60th anniversary campaign that highlights 60 years and 60 pieces of the city's most significant art works."

The Percent for Art Program is celebrating 60 years and is responsible for 1,000 pieces of public art.