INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Indianapolis is packed with history, and now a local artist and teen athlete are making some history of their own in the nation’s birthplace, Philadelphia.
In order to do it, Brian McCutcheon had to coach now 13-year-old, Scottlynn Johnson.
Johnson dominates on Indy’s basketball courts, whether as the point guard or the forward, but she wasn’t quite used to being the center.
“He just said what is a basketball pose that you’d like to do and then I just did it,” Johnson exclaimed!
A statue of Johnson now sits front and center at a Philadelphia Park, Smith Playground and Recreation Center. It is the city’s first public statue of an African-American girl out of nearly 1,500 others.
“It feels like I’m a super person,” the teen said. “And just having me there as a statue it just makes me feel like– it just feels amazing!”
Her parents, Scott & Melissa Johnson, say they’re proud their daughter could help mold a new picture in the City of Brotherly Love.
“Just excited to show her history and show her, she made history,” Mrs. Johnson said.
Philadelphia officials commissioned McCutcheon to make this statue.
The local Indy artist and founder of Ignition Arts chose Johnson as a model for his latest project after putting out a local search when he realized logistics of finding and working with a Philadelphia neighborhood child for the statue would be difficult.
“I didn’t know the statue was going to be looking just like me,” the Indianapolis basketball player explained.
McCutcheon drew inspiration from the Circle City, learning a lesson from Hoosiers who rejected a 2010 controversial public art project.
Some felt it told only one story of African-American Hoosiers.
“In Indianapolis, we’re the city with the second most monuments after Washington D.C.,” McCutcheon detailed. “And of all those monuments, we have one representation of an African-American and it’s a freed slave on Monument Circle.”
The former Philadelphia resident says he wants his art to show a different picture, which is why “making something representative of the community was important.”
The Indy artist took a year to draft up and craft an inclusive statue with details as precise as Johnson’s braids molded in wax, “change” etched into the basketball she holds, and metal cut and ground into creases on her uniform.
As well, McCutcheon tells FOX 59’s Beairshelle Edmé that Johnson’s basketball pose is packed with meaning for kids everywhere.
“You decide to drive, you decide to pass, you decide to shoot, whatever, but it’s a pivotal sort of point, and I feel like that point at middle school to becoming an adult is also a sort of pivotal moment,” he explained.
As well, the visual artist wanted to tie the piece back to its roots in Philly, with a local icon. Originally, he planned to make the statue in the image of Dawn Stanley, a 3x Olympic gold medalist & basketball player from Philadelphia. But city officials don’t allow statues of living people, so instead, McCutcheon chose Scottlynn to represent the kids of the South Philly neighborhood.
Still, he wanted to add more history to the statue, so he dedicated it to Ora Washington. Washington was a star basketball and tennis player in the 30s and 40s, considered by some to be the greatest athlete of her generation. But because she was black, professional leagues would not let her compete against white players.
McCutcheon hopes neighborhood kids see themselves in Johnson & Washington.
“People can look up to me. They can take pictures and stuff,” the 13-year-old exclaimed!
When generations of kids look up to the statue, both this Indy athlete and artist hope they know they too are an MVP, the name of the statue.