Karyn Olivier, an associate professor at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art and Architecture, has been selected to create a monument to Dinah, a former slave whose quick thinking saved the historic Stenton mansion from being burned by the British during the Revolutionary War.
After a year-long process in which community members met to shape ideas of what a monument to Dinah should incorporate, Stenton officials selected three finalists, who presented proposals at two separate sessions in September.
Olivier’s proposal included a sculpted silhouette of Dinah’s face engraved on limestone among benches surrounded by gardens and a small fountain. Because so little is known of Dinah’s life, Olivier included questions written across her image, such as: What was your full name? When were you born and when did you die? How did freedom feel?
Laura Keim, the curator at Stenton, at 4601 N. 18th St. in Nicetown, said a community meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Nov. 20 to work out details, such as the materials for the benches, the size of the monument, and whether a small fountain could be incorporated.
Olivier, the head of the sculpture program at Tyler, described her proposal as offering “different ways for visitors to engage and activate Dinah’s memory.”
The story of Dinah goes like this: After the Battle of Germantown in October 1777, Dinah was alone at Stenton when two British soldiers arrived, intent on burning the place down, and went to the barn to get straw. Shortly afterward, a British patrol officer arrived, looking for deserters. She told him they were hiding in the barn. The would-be arsonists, believed to be deserters, were apprehended and led away.
Keim said the community made the decision with the help of a consultant, who designed the rubric to help the community evaluate the three proposals.
“They were all wonderful proposals, and we couldn’t go wrong with any of them,” Keim said Wednesday. “We would have had something special" with each.
Alvina Brown, a block captain and neighbor of Stenton who has been part of the community discussions “from the beginning,” was happy with Olivier’s selection.
“I’m elated. That was my choice,” Brown said Thursday. The proposal "offers people a chance to visit the mansion and walk through the gardens, have a seat and take time to reflect. It gives people a chance to be still. The pace that we’re living in today is very stressful, and people need to take time for themselves.