Phil Sumpter

Phil Sumpter – Once and Future Frontiers

In the case of raconteurs, relating amusing stories from everyday life is a natural talent that comes naturally to them. Thus, it is said that 94-year-old artist and sculptor Phil “Cowboy” Sumpter is one of the most captivating storytellers in the world. During Sumpter’s return, last week to his hometown of Philadelphia, friends, family, and fans were able to hear more about his extraordinary life, in which he lives according to his own set of rules.

Over the course of his long career, Sumpter has held many titles: artist, cinema and art director, industrial designer, sculptor, and designer of coins and medals. As a retired educator from the High School for Creative and Performing Arts, he enjoys listening to good stories and recounting them.

Phil Sumpter

In his art, he incorporates mythmaking and storytelling, as well as the grand and sublime. Sumpter has over two dozen national commissions, including the tribute to the African-American Soldier and three monuments to baseball players — Judy Johnson, Roberto Clemente, and Joshua Gibson. He did a memorial to Helen Chambers and the commemorative coin for the 75th anniversary of the Philadelphia Public Library. In 2009, the Museo de Las Américas in San Juan hosted Sumpter’s largest exhibition, titled “Vaqueros de las Americas.” For the last few years, he has dedicated himself to his coin design and has done seven of them: The Alegría Foundation, the Blind Artists Association of Philadelphia, and the 500-Year Anniversary of Juan Ponce de León as first Governor of Puerto Rico. 

Through his art, Phil Sumpter expresses a love for the American West by bringing to life the often untold stories of Black cowboys and Buffalo soldiers. More recently he has been focusing on his sepia technique drawings of cowboys, pirates, and soldiers.

Phil Sumpter

“Since my first dime movie or Saturday matinee, I have been an afficiata of the West. The spirit and adventure of this period have found a permanent place in my mind and my art. I wish to pursue the African-American experience through this exciting time of our nation’s expansion. Already, I have tasted its flavor through literature, archives and museums. And I’ve been filled with excitement about these finds.”

Phil Sumpter
Phil Sumpter

As a result of Cowboy’s creative passions, it is clear that he had a genuine love of the arts, the world, and its cultures, along with something within us all he calls “espíritu humano” – the human spirit.

Off the Wall Gallery at Dirty Frank’s presents Phil Sumpter: Once and Future Frontiers – celebrating the artist, reveling in the artwork and embracing the man – on view through November 18, 2022, at 347 S. 13th Street on the NE corner of 13th & Pine Streets in Center City Philadelphia. Artwork is available for sale in person or online at

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