Iowa Arts Council
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Iowa Arts Council

Reframing History in Cedar Rapids

The Cedar Rapids artist Kathy Schumacher was planning to paint some portraits of women’s suffragists a few years ago to celebrate the centennial of the 19th Amendment. But when she discovered how “African American women had been pushed out of the movement,” she said, she wanted to paint them back in.

Her new portrait series of two dozen Black women who championed suffrage and civil rights fills a show called “Freedom’s Daughters,” which is on display at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art through Women’s History Month, in March, and will remain through May 1. She borrowed the title from a book by Lynne Olson, which introduced her to unsung Black women leaders from 1830 to 1970.

From left: Maria Stewart, Coralie Franklin Cook and Sue Wilson Brown, a member of the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame.

“I was much more drawn to their personal details than whether they were the president of this or the head of that,” Schumacher says. “I was interested in their own stories, in their own words.”

In the gallery, some of those words play on a video voiced by the Iowa Artist Fellow Akwi Nji, a Cameroonian-American artist who has a studio down the hall from Schumacher in the historic Cherry Building. Both artists will join curator Kate Kunau for a discussion at 2 p.m. April 24 to examine how their white and Black identities informed their collaboration and different points of view.

As Schumacher recalls, “Akwi said, ‘Why don’t we get brave and talk about that?’”

Michael Morain, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

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