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Ceramics Takes Part in Suffrage Centennial Celebration

Viewpoint; View from the Field »
By Liz Smith, Associate Chair | Associate Professor of Art, Ceramics »

The College of Fine Arts and Communication is creating a week long celebration for the commemoration of the 100 year anniversary of the 19th Amendment, women’s right to vote. The vision of Associate Dean, Dr. Gayle Seymour, the celebration is a collaborative effort amongst many departments, artists and student organizations. The ceramics department at UCA is playing a a big role in the creation of one of the artworks for the commemoration.

I (Associate Professor of ceramics Liz Smith) will be overseeing the creation of a large sculptural piece made of multiple clay components. The piece, as yet untitled (I anticipate that the title reveals itself through the collaborative process of making), will act as a visual metaphor for the importance of a representative voting system that includes equal access for all of the diverse constituents that make up the whole of the United States. Just as women once were denied the right to vote, still in our country every person does not have equal access to voting.  Disenfranchised voters impact all of us by not allowing for the creation of a representative government.

The artwork will be constructed of multiple colors of clay chosen to represent a diversity of skin tones. The clay will be made into the form of acorns, chosen primarily to represent how each vote grows into something strong and lasting, just as each vote counts towards policy decisions in our government that have significant and lasting outcomes. These enduring policies require that all voices are part of the decision making process so all voices are represented.

The acorns will be made by people from many organizations chosen to represent the diversity of our country. To name a few we will be working working with constituents such as Independent Living Services who serve people with disabilities, Bethlehem House who serve Conway’s homeless community, UCA’s College Square a retirement home for the elderly, and a diverse array of UCA students through various Registered Student Organizations and classes. The diversity of people making the acorns will mean that each acorn will be slightly different, a reflection of the individual who made it, further underscoring that each and every individual vote represents a specific person with specific life experiences and needs.

The process of making is intended to reflect the history of quilting bee’s where women would come together as a community to make quilts for the community and where news of the day would often be discussed. In our setting we will provide a facilitator at these making events who will guide discussions about voting in this county, its history, its current challenges, its importance and peoples experiences.

Finally upon completion this beautiful and diverse array of acorns will be laid out on the ground in the form of the flag of the United States of America, the symbol intended to represent the best parts of this country and all of its people.

We are already working on this project with 1800 lbs. of clay in hand! The completed piece will be exhibited during the Centennial Celebration, “‘Shall Not Be Denied’! Celebrating 100 Years of Women’s Right to Vote”. We hope you will come out to see it!