Swing Low : Harriet Tubman Sculpture Dedication

The first sculpture installed in Scripps College’s new sculpture garden, Swing Low: Harriet Tubman Memorial, 2007, created by Scripps College alumna Alison Saar, was dedicated on Harriet Tubman Day, March 10, 2010, in front of the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery at Scripps College. The sculpture garden is located on the Millard Sheets Art Center grounds surrounding Bixby Court.

The dedication included tea and a short gospel program performed by the Claremont Chamber Choir. Following remarks from Professor Emerita Samella Lewis, one of Saar’s most influential instructors at Scripps College, Saar was joined by poet Lynne Thompson ’72, who recited a poem commissioned for the dedication. The event continues the College’s yearlong celebration of “The Genius of Women” in honor of the inauguration of its eighth president, Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga.

Swing Low is a smaller version of Saar’s massive 13-foot tall public sculpture, which holds artistic, cultural, and social significance. Commissioned by the City of New York and installed in Harlem, it depicts Harriet Tubman as an unstoppable force of the Underground Railway. The cast-bronze sculpture shows Tubman, coming on full steam, her petticoat pushing aside all resistance. In the surface of her skirt, pressing through the folds of the fabric, are small mask-like faces representing the men, women, and children whom Tubman led to freedom. Saar has donated a 22″ by 24″ version to Scripps College; installation of this sculpture has been made possible by gifts from Jacqueline Avant, Carol Vernon, and Robert Turbin.

After graduating from Scripps College in 1978, Saar received an MFA from Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. She has had key exhibits at UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, L.A. Louver Gallery, Phyllis Kind Gallery in New York City, and Pasadena Museum of California Art. She was an artist in residence at Dartmouth College. In 2003, Scripps College awarded Saar its Distinguished Alumna Award.