by Brian Burns and Judd Proctor
Angel of the Waters
Considered the first notable American woman sculptor, Emma Stebbins was born in New York City in 1815.
Her family encouraged her studies at various American studios. A trip to Rome would secure the love of the highly-successful and charismatic actress, Charlotte Cushman, who was involved in the bohemian and lesbian-feminist scene.
One of Stebbins’s early commissions was a bust of Cushman herself, completed in 1860. Five years later, her bronze statute of educator Horace Mann was installed outside the State House in Boston.
By far, Stebbins is best known for “Angel of the Waters,” located on the Bethesda Terrace in Central Park in New York City. Taking center stage, the “Angel of the Waters” fountain is a gathering place for those who want a place to sit and contemplate. The three-tiered fountain, topped by the sculpture of an angel, was unveiled in 1873.
Stebbins designed the neoclassical winged sculpture to celebrate the fresh water that the new Croton Aqueduct supplied both the fountain and all New Yorkers. The angel holds a lily in one hand, representing purity, with the other hand outstretched to bless the waters, which were until then unsafe to drink.
Unfortunately, when her beloved Charlotte Cushman died of pneumonia in 1876, Stebbins’ days of creative inspiration were over.
Henry Gerber, Gay Rights Organization Founder
Henry Gerber was born in Bavaria in 1892. In 1913, he emigrated to America and settled in Chicago. He became inspired by Magnus Hirshfeld’s courageous work for gay rights in Germany, while stationed there.
After returning to Chicago’s emerging gay subculture, he and several friends founded the first official gay rights organization in America, called the Society for Human Rights.
Gerber created the first underground gay publication, called “Friendship and Freedom.” But it was short-lived. Acting on a tip, police discovered papers from the society and arrested all its members. After three costly court cases, the charges were dismissed, but Gerber lost his job and his life savings. In the 1960s, he resumed writing for the Mattachine Society.
Henry Gerber lived just long enough to witness the Stonewall Rebellion – the birth of the gay liberation movement.
Keith Haring Mural Saved
On November 2, 2013, hundreds assembled at 22nd and Ellsworth streets in Philadelphia to celebrate the restoration of Keith Haring’s “We the Youth” mural. Haring and a group of teens from CityKids in New York created the mural in 1987 in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution.
Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, Haring moved to New York City where he thrived as an artist and social activist. The mural is his only collaborative public mural still intact at its original site. Sadly, he died from an AIDS-related illness just three years after creating it.
The restoration was made possible by a $30,000 grant to Mural Arts from the Keith Haring Foundation to hire Kim Alsbrooks and a crew of artists to restore the mural, using the most durable paints available.