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News Briefs: New postage stamp honors pioneering sculptor

News Editor

Sculptor Edmonia Lewis will be featured on a new postage stamp. Photo: Courtesy USPS
Sculptor Edmonia Lewis will be featured on a new postage stamp. Photo: Courtesy USPS  

The U.S. Postal Service is issuing its latest Black Heritage forever stamp next month, and it features Edmonia Lewis, the first African American and Native American sculptor to earn international recognition in the Western art world.

According to the Women's Art blog, Lewis, who later moved to Rome, lived in a bohemian expat colony and became involved in lesbian art circles of the city. Lewis herself is thought to have had same-sex relationships, the blog states, and she was professionally supported in Rome by lesbian actress Charlotte Cushman and sculptor Harriet Hosmer.

A news release from the postal service states that the Lewis stamp is a casein-paint portrait based on a photograph of her by Augustus Marshall that was made in Boston between 1864 and 1987.

Lewis (1844-1907) challenged social barriers and assumptions about artists in mid-19th century America. She was born in Greenbush, New York, but spent most of her career in Rome, where her studio became a must-see attraction for tourists, the release states. Lewis' work incorporated African American themes, including the celebrations of newly won freedoms, and sensitively depicted her Native American heritage as peaceful and dignified.

The stamp's first day of issue will be January 26, where it will be unveiled during a ceremony at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. The stamp can be purchased at the postal service's online store and at post offices.

SF NYE fireworks canceled
San Francisco Mayor London Breed and public safety leaders have announced that the New Year's Eve fireworks show in the city has been canceled due to the ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases. According to a news release, the decision was made after closely monitoring local health indicators and impacted public safety staffing levels. Enacting proactive measures that will best protect San Franciscans and essential front-line workers as the Omicron variant is increasingly prevalent remains the City's top priority, the release stated.

Currently, 84% of eligible San Franciscans are fully vaccinated and 55% have received a booster dose, but the community spread of the Omicron variant still poses a significant risk, the release noted. And, with recent increases in holiday travel and gatherings, the city is taking all necessary and precautionary steps to manage the highest transmissible COVID variant that has been seen to date.

"While we are all understandably eager to ring in a new year with San Francisco's customary New Year's Eve fireworks show, we must remain vigilant in doing all we can to stop the spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant," Breed stated. "Thanks to our employee vaccine mandate, our public safety workers are well-protected against COVID, but they still must take all precautions to help limit the spread. By canceling the New Year's Eve fireworks show we are reducing everyone's exposure to COVID-19, while ensuring continuity of citywide public safety operations."

Start off 2022 with a hike
California State Parks is inviting Californians and visitors from around the world to kick-start the new year in a healthy way by getting some fresh air and enjoying the outdoors with the annual First Day Hikes on January 1. According to a news release, more than 40 state parks and over 50 guided hikes will take place across the state in this national-led effort by the First Day Hikes program, which encourages individuals and families to experience the beautiful natural and cultural resources found in the outdoors so that they may be inspired to take advantage of these treasures throughout the year.

"First Day Hikes are a great opportunity to improve one's physical, mental and social health and what a better way to start the new year than by connecting with nature," California State Parks Director Armando Quintero stated in the release. "The state's iconic and beautiful outdoor places support healthy, affordable, physical and social activities. Join staff, docents and volunteers as well as fellow outdoor enthusiasts to welcome 2022."

Docents, volunteers, and staff will show visitors some of the wonders of California's state parks with hikes along the giant sequoias, magnificent redwoods or even through a paddle along the iconic coast. Distance and rigor will vary per hike/activity, so visitors are encouraged to check out details of start times and description of hikes. Participants can find the updated list of state parks here. Additional park units may be added as they become available.



In the North Bay, Jack London State Historic Park in the Sonoma Valley is participating with its ninth annual First Day Hike.

According to a news release, the hike begins at 10 a.m. and concludes at around 2:30 p.m. The round trip route is eight miles long and moderately strenuous. The trek can be either a personal challenge to make it to the park summit or the first step in a commitment to a healthier new year. Either way, it is designed for all fitness levels with guides to help hikers return to the parking lot at any time.

Jack London State Historic Park is in the heart of the Sonoma Valley. It is operated and funded by Jack London Partners, a nonprofit organization that is entrusted with management of the park on behalf of the people of California. Funding is generated from visitors, annual passholders, and donors, according to the release.

The hike is free with the $10 per car parking fee. The event will be canceled in the event of rain. Reservations are required and can be made here.

Creating Change confab goes virtual
The National LGBTQ Task Force's annual Creating Change conference will be a virtual event as organizers have pivoted from an in-person gathering in New Orleans due to the surge of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, according to a news release.

The dates for the virtual conference have not been announced. The in-person event had been scheduled for January 12-16.

"While disappointing, we must put the health and wellness of our attendees, volunteers, staff, and other conference supporters first and have decided to move forward with a virtual-only conference," stated Kierra Johnson, task force executive director.

Danny Linden, Creating Change conference director, stated that officials will soon announce what programming will look like.

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