Public and Fine Artist Sculptor, James Earl Reid works under the trade name of LA GRANDE VISION™. He is the author, designer, and creator of the historic “Billie Holiday Monument” for the City of Baltimore, Md. / USA. The monument is located in Baltimore’s historic Pennsylvania Avenue Corridor’s “Famed Black Entertainment District” at the N.W. corner of W. Lafayette and Pennsylvania Avenues, about 200 ft. or more N.W. of the former historic Royal Theater’s location on Pennsylvania Ave.. Reid’s monumental tribute to Billie Holiday was originally dedicated incomplete on April 7, 1985, the 70th Anniversary of her birth. It was then, during the “Re-dedication of the Billie Holiday Monument” July 17, 2009, “World Class Public Presentation” and currently to date, the only monumental tribute to Billie Holiday on the planet Earth.
The monument was dedicated incomplete due to, the “Effective Act of Censorship”, that was exercised by a Baltimore City Official, who had systematically obstructed Reid’s installation of his two(2) bronze relief panels, racially impacting metaphoric interpretations of Billie’s trademark songs, “God Bless the Child” (11 in. w. x 2 ft. h. x 2 in. d.) and “Strange Fruit” sized at (2ft. w. x 3ft. h x 2 in. d.). There was, also to be perched, on the back of Billie Holidays’s gown, overlooking, the “Strange Fruit” panel below, Reid’s racially impacting metaphoric interpretation of a life size “Crow Eating a Bouquet of Gardenias”. The life size “Crow Eating a Bouquet of Gardenias” is representative of the historic psychological effect of our sociologically embedded “Jim Crow Laws and racism” eating away at not only the “Spirit of Billie Holiday”, but more so to the “Spirit of African Americans” and the inclusion of the vast numbers of the “Spirit of People of Color” From Around the World.
The two bronze relief panels were designed by Reid to be set into the face and rear of the 4 ft. high top section of a 6ft. high pedestal that he had designed for the monument. The effective censorship, took place, by design however, when the City of Baltimore had provided for the statue of Billie Holiday only, a two(2) tier 3ft. 6in. high cement pedestal, (with a 18 in. high tier bottom section and a 24 in. high top tier section) for the statue of Billie Holiday to stand on. This means structurally that there was no way possible, by design, for the two(2) relief panels of a 2ft. high “God Bless the Child” bronze relief panel and a 3ft. high “Strange Fruit” relief panel, to be attached to the two(2) tier 3ft. 6in. high cement pedestal, that was provided for by the City of Baltimore. Reid boycotted the City of Baltimore’s censorship of these important design elements from the Billie Holiday Monument, in silent protest, by not attending Baltimore’s April 7, 1985 official Dedication Ceremony for the Billie Holiday Monument’s 8 ft. 6 in. high Statue only on top of a 3 ft. 6 in. high cement pedestal, on the 70th Anniversary of her Birth.
After 24 years, of the effective censorship of the Billie Holiday Monument, a political solution came with the consensus of the combined efforts of: (a) the “Pennsylvania Avenue Redevelopment Collaborative”; (b) the “Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation for the City of Baltimore”; (c) the “Department of Planning for the City of Baltimore”; (d) the “Department of Recreation and Parks for the City of Baltimore” and; (e) Sculptor, James Earl Reid, with the Assistance of his attorney E. Scott Johnson of the Ober/Kaler Law Firm and the then President of the Baltimore City Council, Stephanie Rawlings Blake, came together in the interest of the “Restoration of the Historic Pennsylvania Avenue Corridor’s Black Entertainment District for the City of Baltimore” with the “Completion and Rededication of the Billie Holiday Monument” [as it was originally designed by Reid and presented to Baltimore City’s Design Advisory Panel for their approval on May 8, 1984] during the “50th anniversary of Billie Holiday’s death and ascension on July 17, 2009”.
Reid is a Representational, Figurative, Portrait, Public and Fine Artist Sculptor. He is an Educator, Curator and Socially Conscious Artist, Activist and Advocate for the End of Homelessness in America. He is also an Intellectual Property, U.S. Copyright Law and Pro Se’ Defendant Activist for Civil and Criminal Justice in Maryland State and U.S. Federal Court.
Reid earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1966 from the Maryland Institute College of Art [MICA], While there he studied under prolific artists/teachers such as Joseph Sheppard, Leonard Barr, Albert Sangiamo, Peter Milton, and Tylden Street. “I knew that I really wanted to study with Joe,” Reid said (Legacy 2004). “The study of anatomy and the intense study of drawing with Joseph Sheppard actually enabled Reid to make his professional developmental transition from painting into sculpture, as his chosen profession. What Reid found was that the tactile medium of clay in sculpture was more important to him as his calling.”
Reid earned his Master of Art Degree in Sculpture, with a Teaching Assistant Fellowship granted to him in 1968-1970 by the University of Maryland at College Park, Department of Art. In the fall of 1970, Reid began teaching there as an Instructor full-time, life drawing, anatomy, clay modelling of figurative and portrait sculpture, mould making and casting of the finished work in a variety of casting materials from the basic level on trough the graduate level. Reid taught at the University of Maryland at College Park, Department of Art for eleven years, achieving the rank of Assistant Professor of Art in the sixth year of his tenure there.
In 1980, Reid became both the Developer and Coordinator of University of Maryland at Collage Park, Department of Art’s participation in the “11th International Sculpture Conference”, held in Washington D. C.. Reid also served as Curator and one of the Exhibitors of the University of Maryland at College Park Department of Art Gallery’s featured Exhibit for the Conference, titled “Sculpture Today” Traditional and Non-Traditional”.
Reid’s point as Curator of this major adjunct exhibit to the 11th International Sculpture Conference,hosted at the University of MD College Park Campus, was to demonstrate to it’s viewing public, that the dichotomy of Traditional and Non-Traditional Sculpture, contrary to expectations, can be exhibited successfully together, in the same environment, without necessarily clashing either philosophically or aesthetically with each other. A lively panel discussion took place, in connection with the exhibit, to iron out what Reid believed was an erroneously perceived conflict, between Traditional and Non-Traditional Sculptors, Art Critics and Scholars. Reid has also taught at Spelman College of Atlanta University, Morgan State University, Goucher College, and the Baltimore School for the Arts.
Reid obtained his first major commission in 1979 from the city of Baltimore to create a monumental tribute to Baltimore’s great internationally renowned jazz singer Billie Holiday. This monument was first dedicated incomplete on the 70th anniversary of Billie Holiday’s Birthday, April 7, 1985. This was due to the act of censorship exercised by a Baltimore City official, who effectively obstructed key design elements of Reid for the monument, that were illustrative of key Billie Holiday’s songs “God Bless the Child”, “Strange Fruit” and a “Crow (from the lyrics of “Strange Fruit”) Eating a Gardenia,” that represents the spirit of Billie Holiday and all people of color, perched on the back of Billie’s gown, overlooking the “Strange Fruit” panel. Completion of the monument was delayed for 24 years. The effective censorship took place when the city of Baltimore provided only a two (2) tier 3 ½ ft. high cement pedestal, for the statue of Billie Holiday only, rather than Reid’s required 6 ft. high polished black granite pedestal design, that would have accommodated both his 2 ft. high “God Bless the Child” and 3 ft. high “Strange Fruit” bronze relief panels, as part of what would ultimately become the World Class monumental tribute to Lady Day that it is today.
Since then Reid has completed numerous commissions of public sculpture, inclusive of a relief portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission and Institute for Non-Violence in Poughkeepsie, New York; a dual relief portrait of Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass for Sojourner-Douglass College in Baltimore, Maryland; a portrait bust of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Last Sermon” that was preached on March 31, 1968 at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.;
“Editorial Without Words” the Shriner’s charity symbol of a Shriner carrying a crippled child as a monumental tribute to their charitable work dedicated to the building of Hospitals for Children around the world, located in the “Almas Temple”, at 1315 K Street, in Washington, D.C.; and the “Re-dedication of the completion of the Billie Holiday Monument” on the 50th Anniversary of Billie Holiday’s death and Ascension on July 17, 2009” per the Artist, James Earl Reid, Sculptor’s original design that was dated and presented to the City of Baltimore for their approval on May 8, 1984.
Journalist William Pleasant, in his research during the month of December 2014, discovered that Reid’s “Billie Holiday Monument” is the first and only monument to Billie Holiday on the Planet Earth. The 30th Anniversary of the first dedication of the “Billie Holiday Monument” on Billie Holiday’s 70th Birthday April 7, 1985, is conjunctive with what should become a year long Global Centennial Celebration of Billie Holiday’s Birthday beginning April 7, 2015, through April 6, 2016, for the substantive and relevant historic Music, Life, Legend and Legacy of the World Class internationally Renowned Jazz Artist Billie Holiday. Lady Day elevated herself through her art from an impoverished child in Baltimore to the heights of fame. Her music resonates deeply, not only with Billie Holiday aficionados, but with many of the oppressed people of color throughout the world.
One of Reid’s most powerful commissioned sculptures is “Third World America: A Contemporary Nativity” created for the Community for Creative Non-Violence CCNV to highlight the plight of homelessness in America. CCNV is a Washington, DC, Not for Profit advocacy organization for the homeless and the poor, then under the leadership of their radically effective advocate against homelessness in America Mitch Snyder. Reid donated his time to create this compelling work of art, depicting a contemporary nativity scene of a homeless African American family headed by a Vietnam Era Veteran – representative of the Biblical Holy Family of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus – resting for warmth on top one of the many steam grates in the nation’s capital. On the pedestal, representative of one of the many steam grates of Washington, D.C., is the bold inscription, “And still there is no room at the inn.” The sculpture of “Third World America: A Contemporary Nativity” and the inscription “And still there is no room at the inn.” Together, are designed to raise our country’s political and social consciousness, reminding us and the government of our contemporary humanitarian responsibility, to help the homeless and the poor of America, by providing them minimally with the basic necessities of life, shelter, food, clothing, and warmth. This is the same as the innkeeper’s perceived responsibility toward the homeless holy family depicted by the Christian Bible that continues to define CCNV ’s mission today!
“I want people to be moved by a level of humanity,” Reid told the Baltimore Sun (Gunther 1985). “We’re dealing with a consciousness raising issue. The plight of the homeless is critical. I don’t know what the answer is but this is my contribution.”
After the sculpture was completed, CCNV attempted to assert that, as the commissioning organization, they controlled the copyright to Reid’s sculpture. The legal battle over the copyright to the sculpture ensued and went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in Reid’s favor in a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Thurgood Marshall — a decision that vindicated Mr. Reid’s copyright and continues to benefit independent contractors as the definitive reading of the work for hire doctrine in U.S. copyright law.
In addition to creating commissioned sculptures, Reid has had eight solo exhibitions and has won many awards. His works are represented in numerous private collections and in the public collections of the Evansville Museum of Art, Evansville, Indiana; Towson State University, Towson, MD; University of Maryland University College, Adelphi, MD and most recently the Enoch Pratt Free Central Library of Baltimore, MD.
References: Gunther, Katie. 1985. Homeless under the JFX inspired nativity scene. The Legacy: a tradition lives on. 2004. Produced and directed by Joseph Sheppard. 35 min. Video cassette. FROM: TRADITIONLIVESON.COM Reid was selected by “THE HISTORY MAKERS,” a Chicago based African American History Archive non-profit 501-c3 organization, as a “History Maker” on August 3rd, 2004 re: the Historic unanimous U.S. Supreme Court Decission ruling in Reid’s favor to the benefit of all independent contractors as the definitive reading of the work for hire doctrine in U.S. Copyright Law.See: http://www.thehistorymakers.com.
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