The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) has partnered with Her Flag, a nationwide art and travel project created by artist Marilyn Artus. Her Flag celebrates the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which enshrined women’s right to vote within the text of the Constitution. Artus collaborated with a woman artist from each of the 36 states that ratified the 19th Amendment by 1920 to create a large flag that is installed on the exterior of the museum’s New York Avenue façade. Her Flag will be on display from June 10 until July 12, 2021.
Artus put out a call via callforentry.org and reached out to artists and arts organizations in each of the 36 states. She received more than 340 submissions and evaluated them with the assistance of a panel of arts professionals. Each selected artist created artwork inspired by both the anniversary and her home state. Artus turned each artwork into a stripe on the flag. The artists represent diverse ages and ethnicities and explore a variety of themes and subjects in their works. Many artists depicted notable women from the suffrage and civil rights movements. Others created imagery referring to the fact that the 19th Amendment did not, in fact, grant all women the right to vote; that privilege would be afforded to Native American, Asian American, Latinx and African American women much later. Several stripes incorporate portraits of contemporary women and girls, highlighting the legacy of the suffrage movement in today’s social justice activism.
“Her Flag is not only a celebration of what was achieved 100 years ago but also a reminder that when it comes to women’s rights, we are still working toward true equality,” NMWA Director Susan Fisher Sterling said. “We believe that art can inspire change and are pleased to present Her Flag in 2021, which we hope will be a brighter year for us all.”
The multiyear project included a road trip to the capitals of each of the 36 states, in the order that they ratified the amendment. During each visit, Artus sewed that state’s stripe onto the flag. However, when the coronavirus pandemic halted her travel plans after the 25th stop, she began live-streaming the addition of each stripe. Now complete, the 18-x-26-foot flag will be displayed in its entirety on NMWA’s building. Previously, the flag was displayed at the William Jefferson Clinton Memorial Library in Little Rock, Arkansas, from August 26 to September 21, 2020.
Artus says she views the project as “a thank you and a love letter to the states that ratified the 19th Amendment into law. This project is about moving forward. This project is not about Democrats or Republicans. It is about Americans. It is about celebrating an important anniversary in our history and…how we can encourage more women to participate in their democracy.”
As several participants noted through their work for the project, Artus also considers the fact that the 19th Amendment only ensured the voting rights of white women; it did not go far enough for for Native American, Asian American, Latinx and African American women. “Reflecting upon this milestone gives us an opportunity to remember that partial progress is not total progress and that we must always continue to seek equity and equality,” says Artus.
NMWA will also be hosting a virtual panel discussion on June 16 at 1:30 p.m. with Artus and contributing artists Higgins Bond (Tennessee) and Nicole LaRue (New Hampshire), in conversation with NMWA Associate Curator Ginny Treanor. They will discuss the centenary of the 19th amendment, the making of Her Flag and the continuing struggle to ensure everyone has access to the ballot box.
About Marilyn Artus
Marilyn Artus is a visual artist based in Oklahoma, and her work explores the female experience and women’s issues. She has created exhibitions that explore the suffrage movement in the United States, pay tribute to women in U.S. history and confront the many different stereotypes that women navigate on a daily basis.
After graduating with a bachelor of fine arts degree, she worked for 16 years as a commercial artist. In 2003, she co-founded The Girlie Show, an all-female art festival in Oklahoma City that drew artisans from all over the United States to exhibit, celebrate and encourage female talent, which was held for 10 years. Each year, the festival awarded a $1,000 grant to a female art or design student. She also founded a branch of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, a cabaret life-drawing class that she led for three years.
Other career highlights include solo and group gallery and museum exhibitions in Oklahoma, New York, Tennessee and Washington. She was awarded the Brady Craft Alliance Award for Innovation in Fiber Arts in 2011 and led an art-making workshop at New York’s Brooklyn Museum in conjunction with a retrospective exhibition of pop art by women.
National Museum of Women in the Arts
The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) is the only major museum in the world solely dedicated to championing women through the arts. With its collections, exhibitions, programs and online content, the museum inspires dynamic exchanges about art and ideas. NMWA advocates for better representation of women artists and serves as a vital center for thought leadership, community engagement and social change. NMWA addresses the gender imbalance in the presentation of art by bringing to light important women artists of the past while promoting great women artists working today. The collections highlight painting, sculpture, photography and video by artists including Louise Bourgeois, Mary Cassatt, Judy Chicago, Frida Kahlo, Shirin Neshat, Faith Ringgold, Pipilotti Rist, Amy Sherald and Élisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun.
NMWA is located at 1250 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. It is open Mon.–Sat., 10 a.m.–5 p.m. and Sun., noon–5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for visitors 65 and over and students, and free for NMWA members and youths 18 and under. Admission is free the first and third Sundays of each month. For information, call 202-783-5000, visit nmwa.org, Broad Strokes Blog, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.