July 11, 2019 | Alyson Stanfield

Multi-State Multi-Year Multi-Artist Art Project with Marilyn Artus

In 1920, women–white women, that is–across the United States got the right to vote when the 19th amendment was ratified by ⅔ of the states. The fact that we are coming up on the 100th anniversary of this event did not escape the attention of Marilyn Artus. For years she had been wondering what art project she could possibly do that would be grand enough to match the significance of the occasion.

Artist Marilyn Artus on the capital steps with Ann Lewis, Her Flag artist representing Michigan.
Marilyn Artus on the capital steps with Ann Lewis, Her Flag artist representing Michigan.

Then, in 2017, Marilyn attended one of my workshops. At the end of two days of masterminding with like-minded ambitious artists, Marilyn had the outline of her multi-state, multi-artist, multi-road-trip project: Her Flag.

Her Flag includes collaborations with artists and public performances in each of the 36 states that passed the amendment. Her first road trip was in June and included the first four states: Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, and Kansas. Her next trip begins on July 13.

Marilyn has scheduled 17 trips over a period of 14 months. At the end of the journey, Her Flag will be complete and measure 18-by-26 feet.

Artist Marilyn Artus sewing the Michigan stripe on Her Flag.
Artist Marilyn Artus sewing the Michigan stripe on Her Flag.

It’s an enormous project that involves an incredible amount of logistics and organizing. But Marilyn is up to the task. As she says, she’s psycho-passionate about this project and topic.

I’ve been dying to share this project for awhile and had the thrill of interviewing Marilyn before she left on her first trip. I hope it inspires you to think bigger about what is possible for your art.


Music by Wildermiss

Show Notes

In this interview, you will hear about:

  • The research and passion that drove Marilyn into this ambitious project.
  • Why it was important to Marilyn that the project be open to anyone who wants to celebrate, regardless of race or political affiliation.
  • Why Marilyn knew if she wanted this project done, she needed to do it herself and not wait for anyone else.
  • How Marilyn selected the 36 women artists in each state to work with.
  • Why it was important to Marilyn that she pay the artists.
  • The decision to make the flag at Rainbow Pennant, a business in Oklahoma that already employs women to make American Flags.
  • A glimpse into the states Marilyn will travel to throughout her epic journey. She will start in Wisconsin in June to travel the path of ratification, and end her trip in Tennessee on August 18, 2020, the anniversary of the date on which the 19th Amendment was ratified.
  • The physical details of the 18 x 26 ft flag, and how Marilyn plans to sew everything while she is on the road.
  • The team Marilyn has hired to help her work on Her Flag, including one very important full-time project manager.
  • The systems Marilyn used to keep their internal and external communication flow organized.
  • The need for artists to not be so attached to their original idea that they miss out on something better.
  • The decision to feature women of color and focus on women like Ida B. Wells, Mary McLeod Bethune, and Sojourner Truth.
  • The part of the journey that is most uncomfortable for Marilyn, but why it’s important that she do it.
  • Marilyn’s big dreams for the finished Her Flag.

©Marilyn Artus, Her Flag XXIV. Mixed media with hand and machine embroidery, 24 x 36 inches.

Resources

Quotes

  • “All of us need to step in and do what we can for our country right now.”
  • “I’m kind of psycho passionate about this.”
  • “As a feminist, I refuse to ask a woman artist to work for free.”
  • “I’ve always been an artist that’s been flexible.”
  • “I want to try and find some ground we can all agree on.”
  • “As an artist, I try to be a joy bringer.”

About My Guest

Marilyn Artus explores the female experience within her artmaking practice. She has created shows that explore the suffragist era in the U.S., pay tribute to an assortment of women in American history and most recently uses the American flag as a vehicle for feminist exploration.

She has also been a curator, commercial artist, burlesque promoter, event planner and female artist mentor.

Read about Her Flag and follow the project on Instagram.


Music by Wildermiss

This episode of the Art Biz Podcast is sponsored by our live workshops, where we can accomplish more in two days than if you spent 6 months trying to figure it out yourself. 

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