Chicago’s First Public Art Project to Honor Suffrage Leaders

The Wabash Arts Corridor, in conjunction with the Chicago Womxn’s Suffrage Tribute Committee, announces a new public art project and funding campaign to honor Chicago women’s suffrage leaders. WAC is commissioning two new murals celebrating women and the work of local activists in obtaining the right to vote and the modern struggle for equality. 

This project will be the first large-scale public history tribute in the city of Chicago to celebrate the local suffragists who participated in the decades-long fight for women’s inclusion in our democracy.  It will feature ten of the movement’s leaders and a representation of the future of female leadership. 

On the Wings of Change, created by artist Jasmina Cazacu, will be located on the 33 Ida B. Wells Drive building and tell the story of women’s activism through portraiture. A sister mural, created by artist Dorian Sylvain and situated perpendicular on the University Center, will be a text-based accompaniment to the suffrage portrait mural and will reference the struggle for equality that continues to this day. 

The Chicago Suffrage murals are slated for installation in summer of 2021. A substantial portion of the budget has been raised and only $45,000 is needed by June 11th (the anniversary of Illinois women gaining the right to vote) to meet the overall goal.

For more information and to donate please visit the website.

About Chicago Women’s Activism

Chicago women were critical in the suffrage movement throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. They articulated strategies and developed techniques that played a significant role in state and national campaigns. The campaign for women’s voting rights in Illinois began in 1869 with the founding of the first woman’s  suffrage organization in the state. Long before the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted the right to vote to all American women, in 1913 Illinois became the first state east of the Mississippi to give women  the right to vote. The vote was limited, but powerful. Illinois women were able to vote in all elections not prohibited by the State Constitution and this included voting for President. In 1919, Illinois was the first state to ratify the 19th Amendment.

About Wabash Arts Corridor

Since 2016, the Wabash Arts Corridor has had a focus of diversity, equity and inclusion, and hosting one of the largest street art and public art collections of womxn and BIPOC artists. 

About the Site

The Chicago Suffrage murals will be situated in the highest visibility area of the Wabash Arts Corridor and the South Loop, where over 10,000 pedestrians and commuters pass every day, on foot, by car, and most importantly on the L train that has the best eye-level view of all. This mural-covered corner is one of the most widely photographed public art destinations in the city, serving as a backdrop to numerous TV and film projects. 

About the Artists

Diosa (Jasmina Cazacu) is a Spanish-Romanian painter based out of Chicago, IL. She uses surreal, dreamlike imagery to create fantastical scenes that dare her audience to challenge their perceptions, question reality, and appreciate the magic that is always flourishing beneath the surface of the mundane. Diosa’s pieces ultimately function as social critiques exploring themes such as feminism & social politics. The topic of femininity is prevalent throughout Diosas’s work; her audience is continually challenged to consider an analytic approach to its concepts of and interactions with the feminine.

Dorian Sylvain is a studio painter and muralist, as well as an art educator, curator, and community planner. Much of her public work addresses issues of beautification inspired by color palettes and patterns found throughout the African diaspora, particularly architecture. Core to her practice is collaborating with children and communities to elevate neighborhood aesthetics and foster shared understanding. In addition to commissioned studio and mural work, Sylvain has led public art projects over the past four decades that empower community and expose children to art making, building the next generation of “cultural keepers.”

About the Chicago Womxn’s Suffrage Tribute Committee 

The Chicago Womxn’s Suffrage Tribute Committee was formed in 2020 to honor the work of Illinois women for voting and other rights for women, and to ensure that the stories of women’s activism are told and not forgotten. The focus of the committee is to create public art projects that will reach wide audiences and serve to mark the work of women activists in public spaces and venues. The Chicago Suffrage murals are the first of the projects they seek to create. Others include installing historic markers at women’s suffrage sites in the state (five markers are currently underway), and state-wide recognition of female political trailblazers through public art and other projects.

Meg Duguid is an artist and an arts administrator. She is currently the director of exhibitions for Columbia College Chicago’s Department of Exhibitions and Performing and Student Spaces and Chief Curator of the Wabash Arts Corridor. Most recently she curated Where the Future Came From, an exhibition and resulting book exploring the history of feminist artist run spaces in Chicago from 1880-2018. Duguid received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her MFA from Bard College.

Michelle Duster is a writer, speaker, educator, public historian, and champion of racial and gender equity. She has written, edited, or contributed to sixteen books. Her advocacy has led to street names, monuments, historical markers, and other public history projects that highlight women and African Americans, including her paternal great-grandmother Ida B. Wells.

Catherine Mardikes serves as Executive Vice President of the League of Women Voters of Chicago and co-leader of the South Side Unit. She was a lead organizer in the successful effort to name a street in downtown Chicago after Ida. B. Wells. Catherine is Senior Humanities Bibliographer at the University of Chicago Library. She holds a PhD in Classics from the same university.                                                                    

Kris Nesbitt is Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer at Chicago History Museum and was the long-time Director of Exhibits and Experience Development at Shedd Aquarium. She is a board member for the Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium and a proud Girl Scout troop leader and volunteer. She is a frequent presenter on accessibility and inclusion and was the recipient of the John Cotton Dana Award for Leadership from the American Alliance of Museums in 2019. 

Lori Osborne directs the Evanston Women’s History Project at the Evanston History Center. She also serves as Director of the Frances Willard House Museum in Evanston. Osborne is a member of the board of the National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites (NCWHS) and is the Illinois Coordinator for the Votes for Women Trail, which is a NCWHS project in honor of the 100th Anniversary of the 19th (Suffrage) Amendment.

Neysa Page-Lieberman is a contemporary art curator, writer and educator with a focus on public art & monuments, feminism, African diaspora and social practice. She is the Co-Artistic Director of Monuments to Movements: In the House of Radical Feminist Practices, an international initiative that reimagines future monuments to illuminate collective action. Formerly she was E.D. of DEPS at Columbia College Chicago and Chief Curator of the Wabash Arts Corridor.

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