The National Endowment for the Arts recently awarded $25,000 to the University of Central Arkansas for its suffrage centennial project “Shall Not Be Denied,” a series of multidisciplinary arts events and installations commemorating the 100-year anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment.
More than $84 million in grants were awarded as part of its second major funding announcement for fiscal year 2020, according to a press release.
“The passage of the 19th Amendment, which was officially adopted on Aug. 26, 1920, did not give women the right to vote; rather, it established that sex could not be used as a factor to deny someone the right to vote,” said Gayle Seymour, associate dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. “The UCA Suffrage Centennial project, ‘Shall Not Be Denied,’ uses the arts (dance, music, sculpture, video) as entry points into the gripping drama of this history, peppered with tales of extraordinary self-sacrifice. It is also intended to reveal the discriminatory practices within the suffrage movement to shine a light on the continued barriers to voting for people of color and educate the public on voting rights for underrepresented communities.”
“Shall Not Be Denied” is a collaborative project within the new UCA College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. Seymour serves as the project director with Jennifer Deering, local grant writer and arts producer, serving as consultant, according to a press release.
The project will include a temporary sculptural installation by artist-in-residence Sharon Louden, with assistance from student apprentices; a suffrage dance performance by Core Dance; spoken word suffrage speeches by The Writeous Poets; a community suffrage sing-along with lyrics by local artists; a ceramic floor mosaic installation by Liz Smith and project partners in the community; “Threads Through Time” art exhibit at the UCA Baum Gallery, curated by Brian Young and Sue Bennett; suffrage swag by art student Lillie Wren; and more.
“To have the UCA Suffrage Centennial project receive this level of support from the NEA is a national recognition of the significance of the project,” said Patricia Poulter, executive vice president and provost. “These grants are awarded only to projects deemed to be artistically excellent. I invite all members of the campus and greater communities to participate and engage as they are able in the events and opportunities connected with the suffrage project.”
Because of COVID-19, the project timeline has been updated to kick off in September and include the entire 2020-21 academic year instead of the proposed single week in September. Public activities will take place on the UCA campus and at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville. Multidisciplinary activities will happen in UCA’s historic Alumni Circle.
“We anticipate the protocols of social distancing will summon even more creativity, persistence, and resilience — attributes associated with the original suffragists — from the project artists and community participants than originally planned. The best projects always overflow their boundaries in exciting and inspiring ways,” Seymour said.
Mary Anne Carter, chairman of the NEA, echoes those sentiments.
“These awards demonstrate the resilience of the arts in America, showcasing not only the creativity of their arts projects but the organizations’ agility in the face of a national health crisis,” she said. “We celebrate organizations like the University of Central Arkansas for providing opportunities for learning and engagement through the arts in these times.”
ABOUT THE NEA
Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America.