Votes for Women: Art exhibit celebrates 19th Amendment

UND Art Collections puts on an exhibit to mark 100-year anniversary of women’s suffrage

UND Art Collections manager Sarah Heitkamp holds a collage by Madelyn Camrud as the two talk about the piece, which is part of the Her Votes Count exhibition opening today at the Empire Arts Center in downtown Grand Forks. Photo by Dima Williams/UND Today.

If you go:
The Her Votes Count exhibition is open Oct. 3 – Nov. 21 at the Empire Arts Center. Gallery hours are Tuesdays, 2 – 7pm,  and Saturdays, 9 – 2pm.

Resting on a white folding table, rimmed with an ornate dark frame, a collage melded handwritten notes, twigs and paint in dashes of white, red and blue.

Sarah Heitkamp, University of North Dakota Art Collections manager, and Madelyn Camrud, a prominent Grand Forks artist and the creator of the collage, stood on two sides of the piece, contemplating it.

“What do you see?” Camrud asked.

Slightly off center, the crescent of a moon, Heitkamp noted.

“What color is the moon?” Camrud questioned further.

A blue moon, a quite uncommon phenomenon that marks the appearance of a second full moon in a single calendar month. Also, the core of a phrase that denotes rarity.

And, that is why Camrud opted to submit the piece – titled The year the moon turned blue – to the Her Votes Count exhibit, which starts today and commemorates the centennial of women winning the right to vote.

Arranged by Heitkamp, the art will be on display at the Empire Arts Center in downtown Grand Forks through Nov. 21.

A new approach

Decades ago, some men might have proclaimed that suffrage would be a privilege women could earn “in a blue moon,” Camrud said, explaining her rationale.

The artwork, which she assembled from found objects, sat in a closet for years until she came across a call for artists that Heitkamp put out for the exhibition.

“I’m delighted to find a place where I think it fits,” Camrud said.

That place, though, is a bit of a novelty for UND Art Collections – not so much in its physical location as in its premise.

Instead of presenting pieces from the art trove Heitkamp oversees at UND, Heitkamp decided to reach out to regional female artists to interpret with their creations women’s right to vote. Sixteen have done so.

In another novel step, Heitkamp invited UND alumna Nelda Schrupp of Lakota, N.D., to jury the exhibition. A prominent Plains jeweler, sculptor and silversmith, Schrupp grew up on the White Bear 70 reserve in Saskatchewan and is affiliated with the Pheasant Rump Nakota First Nation. Her art is part of the permanent collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the National Museum of the American Indian and UND Art Collections, among other venues.

On Schrupp’s recommendation, UND Art Collections purchased artwork from Her Votes Count for its permanent collection.

“One of the great things about doing it this way is that we will be able to begin to consciously fill a gap in the Collections,” Heitkamp said. “We’re always thinking, and we’re very conscious of underrepresented artists within the Collections.”

Karen Perry-Anderson stands next to the five clay pieces that make up her Attested Series project, which has won accolades at previous exhibitions and art festivals. Photo by Dima Williams/UND Today.

Honoring those who made it possible

The topics of underrepresentation and the overcoming of it unfold in Karen Perry-Anderson’s Attested Series, a five-piece assembly of female figures upending their historic epochs. On pastel shards of clay that mimic the endurance of frescoes, Perry-Anderson depicts a suffragette and a female astronaut, among others, who have shattered the glass ceiling.

Having earned the “Best of Show” award at the North Dakota Human Rights Arts Festival in 2017, Perry-Anderson’s creation was the one Schrupp recommended for purchase by Art Collections on Thursday afternoon.

With Attested Series, Perry-Anderson said she hopes to convey that “women are resilient, and that there will always be the enduring idea of what can we do; what can we do now; what should we do now; and where are we going.”

Those inquiries seem to define not only the overall Her Votes Count exhibition but also the day of events – titled Our Voices, Our Votes – that the exhibition is a part of.

Our Voices, Our Votes — which took place today to launch the exhibition —  recalled the nationwide celebrations marking the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, which guarantees women’s right to vote, in Congress a century ago.

Aside from the Her Votes Count exhibit, a panel discussion with former U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, State Sens. Judy Lee and JoNell Bakke, President of the National Woman’s Party Susan Carter, and Marilyn Youngbird, consultant with the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation explored women’s roles in public policy.

A poster exhibition chronicling women’s “ongoing fight for equality,” a reading of Why Vote by former North Dakota State Rep. Eliot Glassheim, a Suffragette performance and a screening of Iron Jawed Angles rounded out the day.

“I hope this show really sends a message of appreciation and celebration of those women and the women today who continue to fight for equal rights,” Sarah Heitkamp said.