Fiat Art Force 5 and Gong Xi Ga Cai

In 1836, decades before the 1920 ratification of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, Alfred University was founded as the first co-educational institution of higher education both to admit women and allow them to pursue the same full course of studies offered to male students.

Our University’s heritage of inclusivity was evident last Sunday when our Art Force 5 program, that uses community-based art to inspire discussion on topics of equality and social justice, hosted a one-day exhibition of artwork honoring icons in the women’s rights movement.

The exhibition, at the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, featured mosaic portraits of six impactful women and was covered by Spectrum News and WROC-TV. The artwork was created as part of an extended Art Force 5 community outreach initiative undertaken as a tribute to this year’s 100th anniversary celebration of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. The tiles for a seventh mosaic, in honor of Coretta Scott King, were created at the Museum the day of the exhibition and assembled on our campus on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day.

Sha'Ryia Hogue is interviewed duirng an exhibition of Art Force 5
Sha’Ryia Hogue ’20 (right), a marketing major from Fort Wayne, Indiana, is interviewed during Sunday’s exhibition of Art Force 5 artwork at the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester

Five of the mosaics were created during community projects overseen by Art Force 5 outside National Football League stadiums during the 2019 NFL season. At the Buffalo Bills training camp in July, spectators were invited to paint tiles used to make a mosaic of Susan B. Anthony. Four more portraits were created outside stadiums throughout the season: Nellie Bly in Pittsburgh; Dorothy Dandridge in Cleveland; Harriet Tubman in Baltimore; and Shirley Chisholm in New Jersey, before a New York Jets game.

A sixth mosaic, honoring Inez Milholland, was created during Art Force 5’s recent two-day residency in the Adirondack community of Keene Valley, New York. Bob Woughter ’97 MS, husband of our former vice president of Student Affairs Kathy Woughter ’93 MS, is the principal at Keene Central School.

Art Force 5 will continue to honor women’s rights leaders later this month, when they travel to Miami, host city for the Super Bowl on February 2. The group will engage the community in a mosaic-painting project honoring Mary McLeod Bethune. To raise money to support the group’s trip to Florida, Art Force 5 has created a GoFundMe page. Donations to the fund are being supported by a matching gift made recently to Art Force 5. 

Dan Napolitano ’93, assistant dean of our School of Art and Design and Art Force 5 founder, deserves our thanks for organizing this important project, which emphasizes our University’s commitment to inclusivity.

Art Force 5 plans to create a total of 19 mosaics, in recognition of the 19th Amendment, to be completed by the centennial celebration of the Amendment’s passage in August.

At Sunday’s exhibition, Dan asked for suggestions of women’s rights advocates who could be subjects of future mosaics. I suggested honoring one of our own, Abigail Maxson Allen, who enrolled in the Alfred Select School in 1839 and was a member of our first graduating class in 1844. Abigail Allen also taught here, and was married to our second president, Jonathan Allen, a member of our first class in 1836, of whom 22 of the 37 students were women.

Well suited to activism and a staunch advocate for equality among men and women, Abigail encouraged students here to “be radical, radical to the core,” and once stated that treating men and women in college differently would be akin to parents “creating two separate households within which to raise their sons and daughters.”

Abigail was a key supporter of women’s right’s icon Susan B. Anthony, and played an integral role in enticing Anthony to speak on our campus. Anthony presented the first four volumes of the six-volume History of Woman Suffrage to Abigail Allen. Today, the full set is housed in Herrick Library.

It would be entirely fitting that tiles to create Abigail Allen’s mosaic be painted by alumni in attendance at our upcoming Alumni Reunion, scheduled for June 12-14.  

Speaking of impactful alumnae of our University, Camille Chew ’13 (B.F.A., minor in mathematics) has had her artwork featured on a new U.S. stamp celebrating this year’s Lunar New Year, the Year of the Rat (The Ithaca Voice). The Lunar New Year is the most important holiday of the year for many Asian communities and the Year of the Rat begins tomorrow, Saturday, January 25, and ends on February 11, 2021.

Fiat Art Force 5 and Gong Xi Fa Cai!