2023 CELA Award Winner: Ed Dwight

Our George W. Carver Environmental Legacy Awards (CELA) is coming up in April to celebrate Earth Day and the accomplishments of members in our community who have made extraordinary contributions within the environmental movement. 

We will honor four awardees during the April 20 event at the California Science Center. Today, we’d like to introduce you to Ed Dwight, the First African American Astronaut Candidate and renowned sculptor.

We recognize Ed Dwight for his role as a leader pioneering a path for underserved communities. From his art sculptures that capture conceptual messages regarding contribution of African Americans to our society, to his earned title as the First African American Astronaut Candidate, Ed is a role model to many striving to find their way while struggling within the constraints of an underserved community. Environmental change is as much about saving the planet as it is creating climate equity for underserved communities, and inspiration from individuals like you offers a positive outlook.

Here’s more about Ed Dwight, from his website:

A man whose resume reads: former Air Force Test Pilot, America’s First African American Astronaut Candidate, IBM Computer Systems Engineer, Aviation Consultant, Restaurateur, Real Estate Developer and Construction Entrepreneur can best be described as a true renaissance man. Ed Dwight has succeeded in all these varied careers. However, for the last 40 years, Ed has focused his direction on the Fine Arts- Gallery Paintings & Sculptures, Large-scale Memorials and Public Art projects. Since his art career began in 1978, after attaining his MFA in Sculpture from the University of Denver, Dwight has become one of the most prolific and insightful sculptors in America.  

Born and raised in Kansas City, Kansas, Ed left in 1953 to join the U.S. Air Force. After completing pilot training, he served as a military fighter pilot and obtained a degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Arizona State University. In 1961 Dwight was chosen by President John F. Kennedy to enter training as an Experimental Test Pilot in preparation to become the first African American Astronaut.  Ed completed the Experimental Test Pilot course and entered Aerospace Research Pilot training, in preparation for Astronaut duties. He successfully completed the course and continued on to perform duties as a fully qualified Aerospace Research Pilot. Three years after the death of President Kennedy, Ed left the military and entered private life.

Ed Dwight has been an artist since his youth. He is a graduate engineer, a former USAF Test Pilot and America’s first African American Astronaut candidate. After successful careers as an Air Force Officer/Pilot, and real estate and construction entrepreneur, Ed has dedicated the last 33 years solely to his artistic endeavors.

In 1975, while in the Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) Program at the University of Denver, Ed was commissioned by the Colorado Centennial Commission to create a series of bronzes depicting the contribution of Blacks to the American Frontier West. The series of 50 bronzes was exhibited for several years throughout the United States, gaining widespread acceptance and critical acclaim. In 1979, while the series was on exhibit at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (National Park Service), Ed was encouraged to create a bronze series portraying the history and historical roots of Jazz. The series created, entitled “JAZZ: An American Art Form,” now consists of over 70 bronzes characterizing the creation and evolution of Jazz from its African and European roots to the fusion of contemporary music.

In 1978, Ed’s first large-scale commissioned work was the abolitionist Frederick Douglass. This life sized monument was commissioned by the National Park Service and is on display at the Douglass Museum in Anacostia, Maryland. Since this commission, Ed has completed over 128 Public Art & Large scale Memorial installations throughout the United States. He has also created over 18,000 gallery sculptures and is represented in several galleries throughout the country.

In 2009, Ed was honored with the commission to create an historical life size sculpture presentation of President Barack Obama’s first inauguration scene. The scene includes the President, The First Lady, the two Obama girls and Chief Justice John Roberts administering the oath. The exhibit is on tour throughout the U.S. in museums & other venues. 

Currently, Ed operates a 30,000 sq. ft. studio/gallery and foundry in Denver. He employs several artisan craftsmen. He is the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from his Alma Mater Arizona State University and hundreds of“Living Legends Awards” from around the Country for his achievements & contributions to racial progress through his many Memorials & Public Art. Museums, institutions and art appreciators throughout the world rigorously collect Ed’s sculptures.

More About CELA

Dr. George Washington Carver, an African American scientist, naturalist, visionary and environmentalist saw it fitting to pursue a life of uplifting his community through the use of ecology and science. His vision lives with us today. The GW Carver Environmental Legacy Awards is intended to serve as recognition for outstanding devotion and service to mankind.

Our award recognizes leaders within their prospective fields of academia, green technology/STEM, environmental justice/advocacy, entertainment and community service categories. These outstanding citizens have distinguished themselves within their prospective professions to have made a positive impact on humanity and our environment. We seek to honor their service to humanity and achievements with our award during this annual gala celebration.