A Painting of Amanda Gorman, the Young Poet Who Performed at Joe Biden’s Inauguration, Is Now Part of Harvard’s Permanent Collection

Gorman is currently at work on two new books.

Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman speaks at the inauguration of US President Joe Biden on the West Front of the US Capitol on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC, for the inauguration ceremony of President Joe Biden. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.
Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman speaks at the inauguration of US President Joe Biden on the West Front of the US Capitol on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC, for the inauguration ceremony of President Joe Biden. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.

After Amanda Gorman’s widely admired recital at the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, Indian art collector and gallerist Amar Singh has donated a portrait of her to their shared alma mater, Harvard University.

Gorman, 22, was named the nation’s first National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017, while she was studying sociology at the Cambridge, Massachusetts, university. Her portrait will now be part of the collection of the university’s Hutchins Center for African & African American Research.

The painting, by Ghanian artist Raphael “Afutumix” Adjetey Adjei Mayne, depicts Gorman reading her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” while wearing an ornate bird cage ring. The ring, a gift from Oprah Winfrey, is a reference to poet Maya Angelou—who read at President Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration—and her famed poem, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

Singh purchased the painting, which was completed in just five days, for €8,000 ($9,682) from the New York gallery Ross-Sutton Gallery, run by art advisor and curator Destinee Ross-Sutton, according to the Art Market Monitor.

Raphael Adjetey Adjei Mayne, <em>AMANDA GORMAN</em> (2021). Courtesy the artist and Destinee Ross-Sutton.

Raphael Adjetey Adjei Mayne, Amanda Gorman (2021). Courtesy the artist and Destinee Ross-Sutton.

“This work must be in an institution,” Singh said in a statement. “It is a celebration of women, a celebration of Black women, a celebration of hope.”

Gorman already has a place in a museum collection in her own right, having donated a manuscript of her poem “In This Place (An American Lyric)” to New York’s Morgan Library & Museum in 2018, where it went on view alongside works by Elizabeth Bishop, Carson McCullers, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and Peter Paul Rubens.

It was a performance of that poem—written in response to the violence of Charlottesville’s white supremacist Unite the Right rally—at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, that led Jill Biden to ask Gorman to compose a new piece of writing for the inauguration.

“The theme for the inauguration in its entirety is ‘America United,’ so when I heard that was their vision, that made it very easy for me to say, great, that’s also what I wanted to write about in my poem, about America united, about a new chapter in our country,” Gorman told the New York Times.

“Being American is more than a pride we inherit/it’s the past we step into/and how we repair it,” Gorman read at the ceremony at the foot of the capitol, just two weeks after it was overrun by an insurrectionist mob. “We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation/rather than share it.”

Amanda Gorman, Change Sings illustrated by Loren Long. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Amanda Gorman, Change Sings illustrated by Loren Long. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Gorman has signed with ING Models for beauty and fashion endorsements—she received plaudits for the yellow coat and red satin headband, both Prada, that she donned at the inauguration—and will perform at the Super Bowl pre-show when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the Kansas City Chiefs on February 7.

She also has two forthcoming books due out from Viking Books for Young Readers in September: The Hill We Climb, a poetry collection; and a picture book, Change Sings, with illustrations by Loren Long.


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