Profile: Ruth Inge Hardison (1914-2016)

Ruth Inge Hardison was an American sculptor, artist, and photographer, known particularly for her 1960s busts (or sculpted portraits) entitled “Negro Giants in History”. Her 1983 collection called “Our Folks”, which features sculpted portraits of everyday people, is also of note. Hardison’s artistic productions largely surround historical black portraiture, and she is especially interested in creatively representing the unspoken voices of the African American past. She was the only female in the Black Academy of Arts and Letters (BAAL), a group that encourages awareness of black artistic accomplishments, when this organization was founded in 1969.

Early life

She was born in Portsmouth, Virginia in 1914. Her family later moved to Brooklyn, New York. Before completing her education, Hardison acted in the Broadway Productions of George Abbott’s “Sweet River” and “Country Wife”, opposite Ruth Gordon. During her brief career in the theater, she began sculpting as a hobby. When she took part in the yearlong “What A Life” production, she even created a sculpture of its cast, later displayed at the Mansfield Theatre. As a young woman, she studied music and creative writing at Vassar College. She also studied at the Art Students League of New York and Tennessee State University.

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