Washington Evening Journal
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A Mt. Pleasant artist was chosen to represent Iowa for a national collaborative art project called Her Flag 2020 that will be completed on Aug. 18, 2020, to mark the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
Annie Guldberg, of Mt. Pleasant, is one of 36 artists from the 36 states that ratified the 19th Amendment in 1920 to be chosen to create a stripe to be sewn onto an American flag in celebration of what women have accomplished. Her Flag 2020 was the idea of Marilyn Artus, an artist based in Oklahoma.
'The concept behind the idea was to be a unifying project,” Guldberg said. 'I'm really amazed she picked me. It's going to be an exciting moment for Iowa.”
Each artist's stripe will be either red or pink, 6 inches high and however long they choose. The pattern will repeat to the length of the flag. Artwork will be sent to a graphic designer and then to a fabric maker in Oklahoma, who will print the stripes.
The finished flag will be 18 feet by 26 feet. Artus will travel to each state's capital in the order and on the anniversary date they ratified the 19th Amendment, where she will ceremoniously sew on another stripe.
Iowa was the 10th state to ratify the amendment on Aug. 24, 1919. Artus will be in Des Moines on Aug. 24, 2019, to sew Guldberg's stripe to the flag.
'This project is about celebrating,” Artus said in an interview with The News. 'It's about raising the importance of women's history, which is so often overlooked and not given the credibility history involving men does. That's something that has to be fixed in order for women to value themselves.”
‘Votes for Women'
For inspiration in designing the Iowa stripe, Guldberg did some research online and at the Mt. Pleasant Library.
'I'm not a historian,” Guldberg said. 'I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on Iowa or the suffragette movement ... At first I wanted to think back and incorporate history into my design. Then I decided to look forward. My inspiration is the heritage the suffragettes brought to us and how we can take it forward.”
In preliminary sketches, Guldberg drew hands grasping sashes - resembling the sashes worn by suffragettes - that reads 'Votes for Women.” Under the sash is the date Iowa voted yes, along with the names of suffragettes including Belle Babb Mansfield, the first female lawyer in the U.S. and professor at Iowa Wesleyan University.
Across the top of the sash is the Iowa State motto: 'Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.”
On a second sash is a quote from Carrie Chapman Catt, which reads: 'Progress is calling on you to make no pause. Act!” Catt founded the League of Women Voters in 1920 to encourage women to use their hard-won right to vote. Catt also grew up in Iowa.
Guldberg will be painting her design in oil. She hopes to create a finished piece to display somewhere in Mt. Pleasant, so it isn't just sitting in her notebook, she said.
Guldberg applied for the project through the Iowa Department of Arts and Culture website. She said she applies for a lot of opportunities, and set it aside in her mind.
'If I get it, I get it. If I don't, I don't want to dwell on it. There's a lot of rejection in the art world,” Guldberg said.
When Guldberg was notified in early February that she was accepted for this opportunity, she was elated.
'It was very exciting, and the deeper I get into what I'm going to do with the project and what the other artists are doing is really exciting,” Guldberg said.
Guldberg said artists are to leave their political beliefs aside in creating their stripes. Her Flag 2020 is about a day in history all Americans can celebrate no matter what their political beliefs, she said.
'When the amendment was ratified, it wasn't perfect. It still didn't give the right to vote to minorities. It's not a perfect date, but most of our history in America isn't perfect,” Guldberg said. 'It's welcoming all kinds of beliefs because when the amendment came out, it wasn't to vote Democrat or Republican. It was to have the right to vote and voice opinions.”
Guldberg's work will be featured next to well-known artists like Jann Haworth, of Utah, co-creator of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover, and Nicole LaRue, of New Hampshire, who designed the iconic Women's March on Washington logo.
A collaborative vision
Artus was 14 years old when she visited the Smithsonian Institution during a school trip to Washington, D.C. She was struck, in particular, by the flag that inspired the Star Spangled Banner. Tattered, torn and strongly stitched together, Artus saw it as a visual of the struggle of the country, she said in a video on her website herflag.com.
'I had watched my mother sew my whole life, and this sewn thing I could imagine my mother sewing it. I could imagine me sewing it. It was a part of our American history I could really tangibly identify with in a way I had never before,” Artus said in the video.
Her Flag 2020 was born out of that memory. Artis wanted to create something powerful, positive and educational to mark this 100th anniversary in U.S. history.
'When I talk to people about this anniversary and about how it's important to me everybody can feel safe for a minute and feel good about being an American, people physically grab on to me and say, ‘That feels so nice to not constantly be hating the other,'” Artus said in an interview with The News.
Artus said she is a 'super nerd” about the suffrage era. When she realized the anniversary of the 19th Amendment was coming up, she knew she wanted to do something grand.
The women's movement started at a quilting event where they talked about wanting the right to vote, Artus said.
'I think it's a lovely tie in to have sewing involved in celebrating this anniversary,” Artus said. 'I use sewing in everything I do because it's a technique I absolutely love and one I grew up watching my family members doing. It adds texture and warmth and a feminist complexity.”
Artus said the budget for the project is 'big and scary.” She plans on traveling over 50,000 miles, spending $15,000 in gas and staying in a hotel 132 nights from her first stop in Madison, Wis., on June 10, to her last stop in August 2020. The final stripe will be stitched on in Nashville, Tenn., on Aug. 18, 2020.
Artus isn't sure where the final project will reside, but she would love to see it hanging on the outside of a building in Washington, D.C., during the next presidential election, she said.
Artus is launching a crowdfunding campaign for Her Flag 2020 on International Women's Day on Friday, March 8. For more information about the project or to donate, visit herflag.com.