Haleigh Nickerson Commemorates Sojourner Truth Through Art

By Nicole Choma | February 22, 2022

What do abolitionist Sojourner Truth and Mars have in common? In the 1990s, NASA created the first-ever rover to successfully navigate Mars. This rover was named “Sojourner” by Valerie Ambroise, a 12-year-old girl from Connecticut who won an international essay contest. Both Sojourner and the rover navigated adversity and the unknown world in front of them. Today, Haleigh Nickerson has created a series of rover artworks that will commemorate Sojourner Truth and her work as an abolitionist and women’s rights activist.

Nickerson is a multidisciplinary artist creating photography, video, performance, installations, and more. Nickerson has also been featured in Sotheby's, Cultured Mag, For Freedoms 2020 Awakening, and has most recently exhibited work at Phillips based in NYC. Moreover, Nickerson’s goal with this particular project is to uplift L.A. youth by honoring their past and pondering their future.

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The rovers for Nickerson’s project will roam within Nickerson Gardens Skatepark & Outdoor Courts, turning the skatepark into Mars before moving around the rest of the 1,066-unit public housing complex. The establishment is named after William Nickerson Jr., who founded Golden State Mutual Life Insurance. At one point, this was the most prominent Black-owned business west of the Mississippi.

Nickerson, the artist, is also collaborating with Watts Community Core (WCC). In partnership with this organization, the rovers will be built through student workshops and an engineer with a background in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a robotics technologist, a rover planner for Curiosity & Perseverance, and as a helicopter integration engineer for Ingenuity.

In a press statement, Nickerson stated, "The re-imagined rover designs are inspired by history and memory. Growing up, my father’s interest was building, designing, and driving RC Cars (radio-controlled cars) from the ground up. Through the act of play, I watched him cultivate his very own constructed space of joy & freedom. Traversing operation, choice of wheels, down to color, it was a world marked by inventive imagination. Each car was innovative, functional, and unique."

Click here to check out Nickerson’s Kickstarter campaign and learn more about the project.