This year marks the Centennial of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. After the amendment passed in 1920, many women were still disenfranchised, including African American women in the South, Native American women, and other women of color. In 1965, the Voting Rights Act then outlawed discriminatory voting practices in southern states. This year also marks the 55th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.
In response to these key anniversaries, the Louisville Metro Government’s Office for Women partnered with the Frazier History Museum, Louisville Visual Art, and the Louisville chapter of the League of Women Voters on BallotBox, a contemporary art exhibit curated by Skylar Smith.
BallotBox uses art as a catalyst for community engagement with new work by five artists. Through an intersectional lens, these artists examine issues related to voting rights, democracy, and citizenship.
The show is still in Metro Hall, which was closed to the public due to COVID-19 in early March. Recently Metro Hall was set to reopen, but significant unrest in the wake of the killing of George Floyd caused the facility to be closed for an underdetermined period. The facade of the Greek Revival structure is now being used by a recently-formed art group called proJECT Truth.
In an effort to bring the concept of the BallotBox show to the public, one of the video pieces by Lexington-based artist, Rob Southard had been playing on citypost digital kiosks throughout Downtown Louisville. Citypost is normally used for advertising various Louisville events and this is the first time the displays have been used for public art.
According to Smith, since the protests there have been social media posts and complaints to the city that the citypost kiosks were hacked by a group with revolutionary intentions. Many of the kiosks were vandalized, shattered, or tagged with graffiti. At this time, the city decided to remove all content from citypost and put up a PSA about Covid-19, with the intention of putting video content back up when tensions are lower. Southard’s video shows political ads from the past century, examining images and narratives used to sway voters. But many thought it was something entirely different. The Ghost Rock blog commented on the video installations as possibly being hacked. Smith has since reached out to the organization and they have updated their original postings.
With the primaries around the corner, Smith is hopeful that the videos will return to cityposts soon and reminds us that until things reopen, you can visit the website to see a virtual tour of the exhibition, interviews with the artists, and the opportunity to participate in an online dialog about voting rights.
BallotBox is now featured in Louisville’s Cultural Pass Program. The 2020 Virtual Cultural Pass offers families in Greater Louisville with children ages 0-21 access to participate in arts and cultural activities provided by nearly 50 venues, free of charge, from June 1 through August 8, 2020.
BallotBox participating artists include:
Sandra Charles – Born 1953, Hazard, KY. Resides in Louisville, KY
Sandra Charles is an oil painter based in Louisville, Kentucky. Her work revolves around issues that affect African American women in today’s society. Sandra began her career working as a batik fiber artist. Images of her work have appeared in several magazines and books. In 2015 Sandra obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting from the University of Louisville. After 40 years in the commercial insurance industry, she retired in 2016, and now works as a full-time artist. She was one of three artists who received a Kentucky Foundation of Women (KFW) 2016 Summer Residency Grant. Her series, The African Warrior Queen Project, was the result of the residency and was included in the group exhibit at Art Sanctuary Gallery in Louisville. In 2017, she was selected to exhibit in the African American Art Exhibition at the Roanne Victor Gallery at Actors Theatre of Louisville, and her work received the Mellen-Oberst Family Merit Award. In 2017, she was one of 15 artists selected to participate in Community Foundation of Louisville Hadley Creatives’ six-month fellowship program. In 2018 Sandra’s work was exhibited at Wayside Expressions Gallery in Louisville in the solo exhibition, Portraits of Us. In 2019, she participated in the Carnegie Art Center exhibit, The Artwork of Elmer Lucille Allen, Sandra Charles and Barbara Mosley Tyson as well as a solo exhibit at the Roberta Marx Gallery (Louisville, KY). More recently, Sandra was one of four artists to receive a Great Meadows “Bully Grant” to travel to the Venice Biennale in Venice, Italy. For artwork sales information, please contact the artist through her website. Visit the artist’s website: www.scharlesart.com
Brianna Harlan – Born 1993, Louisville, KY. Resides in Queens, NY.
Brianna Harlan is a multidisciplinary artist and organizer. She works conceptually in multiform, socially engaged art. Her work is driven by an obsession with interpersonal culture and how that influences quality of life, health, and habits. Brianna is a Hadley Creative and Kentucky Foundation for Women Fire Starter awardee. Her most recent residencies were at Oxbow School of Art and Artists’ Residency, Materia Abierta in Mexico City, and Makers Circle in North Carolina. She also leads community experiences and presentations, having been a speaker for organizations like For Freedoms, 21C Museum Hotels, and the KY ACLU. She is currently pursuing her MFA in Art and Social Action at Queens College, CUNY. Visit the artist’s website: BriannaHarlan.com
Jennifer Maravillas – Born, 1983 Salt Lake City, UT. Resides in Brooklyn, NY
Jennifer Maravillas is a Brooklyn based visual artist. She creates portraits of our land in media ranging from found paper to watercolor. Her aim in this work is to capture universalities and connections across disparate communities by studying social structures from histories, landscapes, and visual design. In 2015, she completed 71 Square Miles: a map of Brooklyn compiled from trash she collected on each block to represent the cultures and voices of the community. She’s continuing her mapping work with her long-term project, 232 Square Miles in which she will walk the remainder of New York City while collecting trash as well as exploring connections throughout historic maps and data. Her background includes studies in anthropology, painting, graphic design, cartography, and mass communication. Jennifer also works as a freelance illustrator creating color-filled works about life and the world. For artwork sales information, please contact the artist through her website. Visit the artist’s website: www.jenmaravillas.com
James R. Southard – Born 1982, Middletown, KY. Resides in Lexington, KY
After receiving his MFA from Carnegie Mellon in 2011, James Robert Southard has worked in the art world through invitations to international exhibitions such as the Moscow Biennale for Young Art, Hel’Pitts’Sinki’Burgh in Finland, Camaguey Cuba’s 5th International Video Art Fest and participation in the Internet Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale in Venice Italy. In 2012, James started a photography and video series in collaboration with the city of Seoul, Korea at Seoul Art Space Geumcheon. Soon after, he took his project to Maine where he was a participant at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, then later to MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire, Yaddo Retreat in New York, Jentel in Wyoming, MASS MoCA, and currently to the dairy farmers of northern Vermont. His digital construction process allows for public interactions and collaborations to combine together in the aesthetics of each composition. While continuing this process in new communities, he has also returned to academia by teaching photography at the University of Kentucky. For artwork sales information, please contact the artist through his website. Visit the artist’s website: www.jamesrsouthard.com
Taylor Sanders – Born, 1995, Louisville, KY. Resides in Louisville, KY
Taylor Sanders is a biracial African American artist who was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. She earned her BFA in Interdisciplinary Sculpture and a minor in African American Studies in 2019 at Spalding University. Through her art practice, Sanders integrates found three-dimensional objects with a variety of sculptural processes, techniques, and materials; while addressing both past and present racism against people of color. For artwork sales information, please contact the artist through her website. Visit the artist’s website: www.taylorsandersart.com