Brenda Councill moved to Jacksonville in 1962 and grew up in Mandarin. She developed a love for painting at an early age. By age 7, an exhibition of her paintings was featured at the Jacksonville Museum of Arts and Sciences (now MOSH.) At 11, Councill designed and supervised the installation of her first piece of outdoor sculpture. In 1976, her work appeared on NBC’s Today Show in a segment with Gene Shalit.

Brenda’s interest in historic preservation led to a series of award-winning drawings featuring historic landmarks, including many in Mandarin. The late artist Charlie Brown praised the collection, saying “I have seen many, many pencil drawings in my long life, but never anything to compare with a magnificent drawing by Brenda Councill.” In the early 1980s, Brenda opened a studio to publish limited edition prints. In 1987, she opened a second studio in New York which was followed by a number of solo and group exhibitions displaying her paintings and sculptures. Corporate collectors of her art include AT&T, DuPont, British Airways, and Credit Suisse.

Brenda Councill currently resides in North Carolina, where she focuses on large-scale public art including murals and sculptures. She created one of the South’s largest painted ceiling domes at the Core Lab at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, North Carolina. That work drew the attention of Martha Stewart who climbed the 100 feet of scaffolding to meet Councill. The mural was also featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Other examples of her massive murals may be found at Appalachian State University in North Carolina and Presbyterian College in South Carolina.

In 2022, Councill was selected by The Ohio Women’s Memorial Commission as one of three finalists in a national competition to create a Women’s Commemorative Monument on the Ohio Statehouse grounds. Work on her final design will begin in 2024. 

Councill’s current work in progress is a life-size bronze sculpture of famed author and abolitionist, Harriet Beecher Stowe. Upon its completion in 2024, “Harriet Beecher Stowe in Mandarin” will be installed in Walter Jones Historical Park alongside Mandarin Museum and the 1898 St. Joseph’s Mission Schoolhouse for African American Children.

Harriet Beecher Stowe in Mandarin

A scale model of the proposed bronze sculpture, “Harriet Beecher Stowe in Mandarin,” is currently on display at Mandarin Museum.

Through a partnership with Mandarin Museum & Historical Society, Brenda Councill has begun work on the only life-size likeness of Harriet Beecher Stowe, the nineteenth-century abolitionist and author of the 1852 anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Titled, “Harriet Beecher Stowe in Mandarin,” Councill’s bronze sculpture will represent Stowe as she was while living in Mandarin during the winters of 1867 through 1884.

During Stowe’s 17 years in Mandarin, she was a vocal advocate for Florida’s uplift following the U.S. Civil War. She published Palmetto Leaves in 1873, a collection of essays regarding her life in Mandarin that also promoted Florida’s potential for tourism, industry, and expanded education. She worked with the Freedmen’s Bureau to establish a school for Black children in the community, purchasing the land herself and hiring the first teacher.

It is Stowe’s devotion to greater access to education that Councill hopes to capture. The bronze sculpture will feature two young boys in addition to Stowe. The scene imagines the boys as laborers in her orange grove who have taken a break to sit with her as she reads to them and provides instruction.

At its completion, “Harriet Beecher Stowe in Mandarin” will be installed in Walter Jones Historical Park, alongside Mandarin Museum and the park’s 1898 St. Joseph’s Mission Schoolhouse for African American Children. Mandarin Museum & Historical Society is thrilled to partner with Brenda Councill to make this display of public art and historical commemoration accessible to the public. The sculpture will further the museum’s mission to share the stories of Mandarin’s history, culture, and natural resources.

The project has won the approval of the City of Jacksonville and Florida Communities Trust. In addition, Joan D. Hedrick, author of the 1995 Pulitzer Prize winning biography Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Life, has offered her endorsement stating, “it is entirely fitting that such a monument be placed there. It will celebrate one of America’s most prolific and influential writers…[and] commemorate Stowe’s profound love of Florida. I heartily endorse this movement to celebrate her life, work, and time in Mandarin.” Councill’s vision is also timely in that The Florida Commission on the Status of Women recently selected Harriet Beecher Stowe as a 2023 finalist to be considered for the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame.

Attend | Open Studio with Brenda Councill

Throughout December 2023, January 2024, and the first two weekends of February, Mandarin Museum will host Open Studio with Brenda Councill every Friday through Sunday from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm at the Historic Mandarin Store & Post Office located at 12471 Mandarin Road (except Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve). Visitors will have the opportunity to view the sculpture in progress and engage with Councill to learn more about her creative process.

Support | Harriet Beecher Stowe in Mandarin

The community is invited to join Harriet Beecher Stowe’s descendants and others who have already contributed in support of the effort to bring “Harriet Beecher Stowe in Mandarin” to Walter Jones Historical Park. As of December 30, 2023, the campaign has raised $52,000 of the $150,000 goal. Be a part of it all by donating today! Download the donor package below for more information.

Thank you to those who have already committed their support to making “Harriet Beecher Stowe in Mandarin” a reality.

Orange Blossoms | $25,000 – $34,999
Rosamond Warren Allen
in honor of her great-great grandmother, Harriet Beecher Stowe

Mandarin Oaks | $10,000 – $24,999
Rosemary McCorkle
Thomas Davant Johns, Ph.D. and Gretchen Schaef Johns, M.D.
in memory of Thomas Joseph Agee
in honor of Sandy Arpen

Magnolias | $2500 – $9,999
Cheryl S. Cummer
Larry and Emily Lisska
Eric and Naomi Gillis
Lee and Mindy Hanna
James C. and Nancy Capps Hoover
in memory of the Hoover and Capps Families
Sandy and Tracey Arpen
Colonel John T. and Judith Winkler
George Ash and Kate Arpen
Patrick Plumlee and Laura D’Alisera
in memory of their parents
Marilyn Carpenter
in memory of Pete Carpenter
Don and Pam Chandler
Janelle and Bill Watson

Friends of Historic Mandarin | up to $2499
Bhide & Hall Architects
Matt Carlucci Insurance Agency, Inc.
Pam Neumann
in memory of Dave Neumann and Ed Ralph
Deborah Harmon
Jim and Renee Waler
Jay Caffey
Vincent Ferrigno
Mr. and Mrs. James M. Barker, IV
Virginia B. Barker
Steve and Kathy Rawlins
Elizabeth Meux
Peggy and Bill Armstrong
Carol and Jeff Anderson
Byron and Marsha Peacock
Rev. and Mrs. Roger L.D. Williams
Claire King
Bonny Councill
Jeff and Carrie Councill
Pam Neumann
in honor of Carolyn Hall and Bettye Stilley
Bettye Stilley
in honor of Pam Neumann and Carolyn Hall
Gabriele Dempsey
in memory of Ruth Heerling
Anne Morrow
Leslie Anderson
Stacy Anderson
Evalyn Campbell
John and Kathleen Holler
Payson J. Tilden
Thomas Entenza
Friends of Gabriele Dempsey in her honor
Courtenay Wilson
Lynn McManus
Ruth Stein
Marilyn Stein
Margaret Gellatly
Blair Woolverton
Renate Hixon