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New exhibit illuminates North Carolina’s complicated history with women’s suffrage


(From left) Brad Munda, the production manager for Carolina Performing Arts, talks with Bruce Guild, Chapel Hill resident and UNC class of '81 while Guild's wife,  Linda Convissor, class of '99 and former director of community relations looks on.

Correction: A previous version of this article included incorrect partners for the “1971” art installation. The story also had the Carolina Performing Arts’ anniversary year wrong. The story has been updated to reflect these changes. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the errors.

The Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, was not ratified in North Carolina until 1971. But even after its ratification, not all women in North Carolina were able to vote.

To commemorate the women who advocated for women’s suffrage, Carolina Performing Arts is displaying an art installation, entitled "1971,"every evening until Sept. 29 in front of the library.

The installation was created by Australian artist Craig Walsh as part of his "Monuments" series. Walsh’s work has been featured in various places around the world.

“I am interested in inspirational individuals who contribute to social justice and community development wherever they are from,” Walsh said. 

Walsh said it is essential for the community to collaborate with him so the context for the artwork is accurate. 

“In Chapel Hill, the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in North Carolina was discussed as a timely history to explore and was quickly recognized as an important subject to present to the broader community through this public artwork application,” Walsh said in an email.

A panel represented by the Carolina Women’s Center, Chapel Hill Public Library and Southern Oral History Program chose the featured honorees, who are all members of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community: Mae McLendon, Mary Jones Phillips and Diane Robertson.

Today, all three women continue to work to increase voter participation within the community. 

Christina Rodriguez, associate director of marketing and communications for Carolina Performing Arts, said it is a good year to add something that is not only different, but also modern to their season lineup. Because this is their 15th year, Rodriguez felt it was the perfect time to do something outside of the norm.

“This installation shows the evolution of art since our beginning,” Rodriguez said. “It ties back to the larger idea that Carolina Performing Arts stresses the importance of engaging deeply with the world.”

Rodriguez said it is important for North Carolinians to understand why the Nineteenth Amendment wasn't ratified in the state until 52 years after it was passed by Congress. 

“There are still present voting rights issues in North Carolina and the country as a whole,” Rodriguez said. “It is very present within our own communities.”

While Carolina Performing Arts initiated its first outdoor installation, it continued to encourage collaborative art projects between the University and the Town of Chapel Hill, she said. 

Susan Brown, director of Chapel Hill Public Library and executive director of Community Arts and Culture, said 1971 closely aligns with the library’s mission of sparking curiosity, inspiring learning and creating connections.

“1971 helps the community learn about these women who are living, breathing members of the town,” Brown said. “It’s something that the community probably doesn’t know about, but it will spark questions.”

Two of the installation's curators  — Carolina Women's Center Director Gloria Thomas and Southern Oral History Program representative Jennifer Standish  — will host a discussion Friday evening at 7:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. 


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