Emerson Bell was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1932. He attended McKinley High School as well as a Capital area vocational school where he learned drafting and design techniques. Bell was not formally educated in the arts but rather gained his knowledge through artist associations and practice. Bell was well known for his African-influenced wood and bronze sculptures, spiritual paintings, as well as his career as a jazz musician playing locally in Baton Rouge. He made it his life's mission to teach young people the arts, working as an artist in residence for the Expressway Park Summer Enrichment program, and an artist in residence with East Baton Rouge Parish Schools with the financial backing of the National Endowment of the Arts.
Bell worked with many artists through out the years. Most notabley, he worked with Alvin Batiste, a retired Southern University music professor and a well known jazz mucisian. Together, they created African musical instruments that were displayed at various venues around the country. Bell also worked with John Payne at National College in Chicago, Illinois.
Although Bell worked with a number of media types, he most closely identified with sculpting. According to an article written in for the Sunday Advocate in April of 1977, Bell "considers himself a sculptor rather than a painter...'Most sculptors are concerned with people and their environment, and most are designers with stronger visual concepts than ordinarily a painter would have, although both the painter and the visual artist are of the same media."
In 1977, Bell was awarded funding from the National Endowment of the Arts, the Louisiana State Parks and Recreation Commission, and the Arts and Humanities Council of Greater Baton Rouge to create a sculpture in Expressway Park between East and South Blvd. The sculpture is titled, "Unity and Destiny for Children" and was dedicated to the children of the once flourishing neighborhood in which it stands. The Sunday Advocate of April 10, 1977 describes the scultpure as "depicting generations of children seeking higher consciousness, with three entrances for the children to walk through, and seven slats protruding from the higher portions of the sculpture representing "steps in life."" An image of the piece is availabe in the slide show to the left of the biography.
Emerson Bell passed away on April 13, 2006 at the age of 74 in his home town of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Image from the blog, Haps and Mishaps.