19th Amendment mural in Huntsville honors women’s suffrage

single-meta-cal August 17, 2020

Kim Radford will never forget when she learned about a call for qualifications that led to her incredible mural celebrating the 19th Amendment in Huntsville.

A friend sent her a Facebook message letting her know about the project, which specifically targeted female artists in the southeastern United States. Radford, a former art teacher based in Nashville, applied and was among three finalists selected.

“Prior to this mural, all of my public art was in Nashville and I also have one piece near Atlanta, Georgia,” she said. “So this was a fun project for me to apply for – to get out of my own town.”

‘This Girl Can’

The Huntsville Public Art Committee ultimately chose Radford, a full-time professional artist since 2012, for the project on the side of the parking deck at 112 Washington St. S.E. Inspired by the wall’s narrow dimensions and a tree growing alongside it, Radford’s design features a young girl in colorful clothing with a watering can sprinkling “Votes for Women” on the nearby tree.

2020 marks 100 years since the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the legal right to vote. It’s important to note that while the 19th Amendment did allow women to vote, many black women were unable to exercise that right freely. It wasn’t until President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act that voting became easier and more accessible to all.

The girl in Radford’s mural wears a purple sash with the word “Vote” noticeably visible among the flowers, foliage and butterflies. As the first three-story mural in Huntsville, “This Girl Can” has created some buzz as it honors the decades-long women’s suffrage movement.

“The young girl is symbolic of all the generations who have fought before her to have the right to vote, as well as a symbol of future generations,” said Melanie Thornton, a member of the Women’s Economic Development Council (WEDC) mural committee. “Our hope is that this mural will engage and inspire the next generation of voters.”

Back Story

The League of Women Voters of the Tennessee Valley approached Arts Huntsville about the mural project in August 2018. The following summer, the WEDC began working with community partners to explore ways Huntsville could celebrate the 19th Amendment centennial.

After gaining enough support to make the mural a reality, WEDC’s Women’s Suffrage Centennial Committee began fundraising for the project. In addition to the WEDC, the following community partners provided support:

“The 19th Amendment mural is unique in Huntsville’s mural portfolio because so many community partners came together to develop the project and fund this public art installation,” said Allison Dillon-Jauken, executive director of Arts Huntsville.

Dedication event

Radford, who finished the piece in two weeks, will participate in a mural dedication event at 9 a.m. Tuesday, August 18 – the 100th anniversary of the day women won the right to vote. The ceremony will be live streamed on Facebook to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Click here to RSVP or watch live. Those who do attend in-person must wear face coverings and practice social distancing.

Kristen Pepper, director of marketing at the Huntsville-Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the 19th Amendment mural fits right in with Huntsville’s personality and skillsets.

“One of the unique characteristics of Huntsville is the co-habitation of both ‘right-brain, left-brain’ – just as science, engineering, and technology serve as pillars of our identity, so does art and creativity,” she said. “This mural is a beautiful celebration of women and diversity, and it encapsulates so well the things that are important to us as a community.”

Check out the CVB’s time-lapse video of the project below:

Public Art Plan

Dillon-Jauken said the 19th Amendment mural aligns with the City of Huntsville’s Public Art Plan, which you can download and view here.

“The Huntsville Public Art Master Plan embraces projects like the 19th Amendment mural that are supported by community partners, and the Plan also calls for public art projects across the City as part of Huntsville’s annual public art work plan,” she said. “In the coming year, expect to see more neighborhood-based projects developed by local artists that enliven all corners of the community.”

Radford said support from the public has been “overwhelming.” She invites residents to follow her social media or visit her website to see progress photos and other artwork.

“To be chosen was such a prize because I’ve been working toward doing larger public works of art … and this is my largest to-date,” she said. “It was a huge achievement professionally to be selected and a huge prize to me to complete it in the time I thought it would take.”

Photo credit: The Huntsville-Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau


UPDATE: The City of Huntsville produced the video of the unveiling of “This Girl Can” on August 18, 2020, below: