Her flag

Collaborative art project visits Springfield

click to enlarge Marilyn Artus, creator of the Her Flag Project to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote, left, with Judith Mayer, the Illinois artist who created the stripe representing Illinois.
Marilyn Artus, creator of the Her Flag Project to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote, left, with Judith Mayer, the Illinois artist who created the stripe representing Illinois.

Marilyn Artus, a visual artist from Oklahoma City, was in Springfield as part of a 14-month collaborative art project commemorating the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. Artus came up with the idea to create an enormous flag with stripes made by women artists from each of the 36 states that voted to ratify the 19th Amendment. She issued a call for artists to participate in Her Flag, and 340 women applied. One from each state was selected. Artus is traveling to the state capitals of each of the 36 states, in the order of ratification, to sew the stripes onto the flag. Wisconsin was the first to ratify, followed by Illinois. Artus sewed Illinois’ stripe onto the stripe from Wisconsin at an event June 12 at the Springfield Art Association’s gallery in the Hoogland Center.

This was the first of 17 road trips Artus has scheduled between now and August 2020, finishing in Nashville, Tennessee, the final state to ratify. From Springfield she was headed to Lansing, Michigan, and then Topeka, Kansas. The final flag will measure 18 x 26 feet, with the iconic “Votes for Women” image in the upper left corner. Each state was assigned either pink or red as the dominant color for their stripe.

Artus is a self-described suffragist-era nerd. In her call to artists, she explained, “I would like you to celebrate this important anniversary in American history with your art-making in a hopeful way. It is important to me that a diversity of political beliefs is included in this experience. I am interested in things that unite us. I want to celebrate and educate with this project.”

Judith Mayer is the artist selected from Illinois. Mayer is an American lettering artist and illustrator working in Chicago and vice president of marketing for South Shore Arts. The Illinois stripe is 6 inches x 165 inches. “My color palette is clearly inspired by Wonder Woman, and the graphics are energetic, bold and loud,” says Mayer. “The suffragettes were no shrinking violets, and I wanted to represent in my design how outspoken these women were. I included a bugle as a call to arms, to assemble troops, the energy bolts for the power these women needed to muster and the ripples emanating from the figures to show the impact that these leaders had. To gain the right to vote without the power of the vote sounds like an impossible task. These powerful, unbelievably determined women seem like superheroes to me. They risked their safety, overcame enormous obstacles and refused to be silenced. It was no small task to change the minds of an entire nation.”

Artists submitted a digital image of their design, and Artus had the stripes printed on commercial-grade fabric. When the flag is half-finished later this fall it will be on display in Kansas City at the Mid-America Arts Alliance. Artus anticipates the final flag will travel and hang outdoors on buildings. She hopes the flag will travel to Washington, D.C., and be displayed in State Capitol buildings during the 2020 election season.

“This project is about moving forward,” says Artus. “It is not about Democrats or Republicans. It is about Americans. It is about celebrating an important anniversary in our history. And it is about evaluating how we can encourage more women to run for political office. The year 2020 will be a presidential election year. It will be a tough year full of negative politics. I hope that all who participate or witness this project will have a moment of pride and a respite from the political mayhem that is sure to be swirling around us in 2020.” For more information, go to www.herflag.com.

Contact Karen Witter at kawitter13@gmail.com.

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