A man whose resume reads: former Air Force Test Pilot, America’s First African American Astronaut Candidate, IBM Computer Systems Engineer, Aviation Consultant, Restauranteur, 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 30+ years, Ed has focused his direction on fine art 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.
Air Force Pilot and America’s First Black Astronaut Cadidate
Born and raised in Kansas City, Kansas, Ed left his hometown 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 candidate. Ed completed the Experimental Test Pilot course and entered Aerospace Research Pilot training. 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.
A New Beginning
After leaving the military in 1966, Ed took a position with the IBM Corporation as a Marketing Representative & Systems Engineer. After leaving IBM, Ed became an Aviation Consultant for a Dallas firm and performed pilot duties with Executive Aviation, an executive air charter service. This was followed by the development of a restaurant chain. In 1970, Ed founded Dwight Development Associates, Inc., a real estate land development and construction company, making him one of the larger real estate development entrepreneurs in Denver.
Black Frontier Spirit in the American West
Ed’s childhood dream was to become an artist, but was encouraged by his father to become an engineer. He received a B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from Arizona State University in 1957. With little formal art training, his first serious artistic endeavor began with a commission to create a sculpture of Colorado’s first Black Lt. Governor, George Brown in 1974. From this first artistic endeavor, he was commissioned by the Colorado Centennial Commission to create a series of bronzes entitled “Black Frontier in the American West.” The series depicted the contribution of African Americans to the opening of the West. Few facts were known about Black pioneers, explorers, trappers, farmers and soldiers. Through using his newly developed and unique artistic style, Ed opened the minds of viewers to this unknown history of the American West. The Series of 50 bronzes was on exhibit for several years throughout the U.S., gaining widespread acceptance and critical acclaim.
Jazz: An American Art Form
After the success of his “Black Frontier Spirit Series” exhibit, at the behest of the National Park Service, at the St. Louis Arch Museum, Ed began to explore the most significant Black contribution to the culture of America: the history of Jazz in a sculptural form. He studied the African culture and the improvisational role the Africans contributed to the art form. This led to Ed’s study of his next major series of bronzes, “Jazz: An American Art Form”. This series depicts the evolution of jazz music from its roots in Africa to the contemporary superstars of the jazz era, and focuses on this style as a pure American musical idiom. Elements of the Jazz series are on display at major galleries and museums throughout the U.S. and Europe, and have received critical acceptance internationally. This series of over 70 bronzes features many works focusing on the African tribal contributions, then presents such great jazz performers as Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Benny Goodman.