By Paul Rozycki
A heroine of the Flint water crisis, a matriarch of civil rights, an Olympic gold medal boxer, an ardent advocate for the poor, a benefactor of a major library, and a tireless champion in the NAACP: all these Flint women are deserving of sculptures in their honor, a Flint Institute of Arts sculptor and a Mott Community College trustee contend.
Jane Trotter, Flint Institute of Arts sculpture instructor, her students, and Mott College Trustee Andy Everman have decided it’s time to honor “heroines and humanitarians” who have contributed to Flint and Genesee County, as the community has honored many male auto pioneers with statues downtown.
And they’re putting some clay into the idea, hoping to raise necessary funds in time to unveil and celebrate six new sculptures by the 100th anniversary of the League of Women Voters in February and Women’s History Month in March, 2020.
During last December’s Sybyl Award presentation, which honored many who have contributed to the betterment of Flint and Genesee County, a suggestion was made that there should be a memorial statue or bust of the late Sybyl Atwood, the award program’s namesake.
Atwood contributed much to the community with her leading role at the Resource Center and was a voice for the poor, sick and the elderly. The award program named for her, which ended its ten-year run last year, was given to many who have pursued similar goals.
So Trotter and her students are creating busts of six women who have been leaders in the area. As the artists create the sculptures, Trotter and Everman also are seeking funding for crucial next steps, along with looking for a permanent home to display the finished work.
The women being honored are:
- Mona Hanna-Attisha, M.D, who became a primary voice for those harmed by the Flint water crisis. By challenging her critics both within and outside of the city, she became a leader in the campaign to deal with the Flint water crisis. Artist Jan Hanson is completing the statue of Dr. Hanna-Attisha.
- Sybyl McPeake Atwood, who worked for more than 40 years to advocate for the poor, the sick, and the elderly. In her role with the Resource Center she motivated and organized countless volunteers for causes and projects that improved life in Genesee County. Trotter has completed Atwood’s bust.
- Olive Rankin Beasley, who has been called the “matriarch of the civil rights movement in Flint,” and devoted her life to racial equality and racial harmony. She was active in most of the civil right activities both in Flint and beyond. Carole Goyt is the sculptor working on Beasley’s statue.
- Claressa Shields, the Flint boxer who is a two-time Olympic gold medal winner and now established in a professional boxing career. She has proven to be a model for many young people in Flint and Genesee County. Sculptor Dee Moreno is creating Shields’ sculpture.
- Edith Prunty Spencer, has been a leader and active member of the Flint NAACP for more than 60 years and has been a tireless champion for all. Trotter is completing the bust of Edith Spencer.
- Frances Willson Thompson, has been a donor and philanthropist for many causes and projects in the Flint area. She had been the major motivating factor behind the Frances Willson Thomson library, and the Critical Issues Forum at the UM-Flint. Her granddaughter Susie said of her, “She loved Flint so much and was so thankful for all that Flint had given to her family and her that she wanted to give back.” Trotter is also completing the Thompson bust.
According to Everman, the project will require at least three separate and important steps. The first is underway right now, as Trotter and her students, with the support of the Flint Institute of Arts, are completing the six busts. The FIA has provided the studio time, clay, sculpture tools, and artistic expertise to support the project.
However, to cast the clay sculptures into bronze they need to raise $4,000 by the end of March. The timing and the money is critical, because the rubber molds for the bronze casting must be done before the clay models dry out, and since most of the clay work is nearly done, that work is on the clock.
Once the busts are cast, funds need to be raised for plaques and pedestals for each sculpture.
Finally, the group is seeking a prime location for the placement of the sculptures. At the moment several areas in the downtown area have been suggested, and discussions are underway to find a suitable permanent location for the “Women Heroines and Humanitarians” of Flint.
They hope to have a grand opening as part of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the League of Women Voters in February of 2020, and during Women’s History Month in March of 2020.
Those wishing to help can contribute funds by sending them to the Court Street Village Non-Profit, at 727 East St., in care of “Heroines and Humanitarians.” A GoFundMe account also is expected to be up online soon.
Banner photo: Lorrie Vandivier (left) and Jan Hanson at work in the sculpture studio at the Flint Institute of Arts (Photo by Paul Rozycki)
EVM staff writer and political commentator Paul Rozycki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.