On August 18, 1920, supporters of women’s suffrage stood together at the Tennessee General Assembly, each wearing a yellow rose as they lobbied the politicians who would decide that day to recognize women’s right to vote in America. One-hundred years later, photography exhibition A Yellow Rose Project (AYRP) is remembering and responding to the efforts of those suffragists — and it’s asking us to do the same.
The exhibition went up virtually on August 18 this year and opened with an in-person display at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center (CPAC) on October 9. AYRP is curated by Meg Griffiths, assistant professor of photography at Texas Woman’s University, and Frances Jakubek, director of exhibitions and operations at the Bruce Silverstein Gallery in New York.
In 2019, Griffiths and Jakubek began commissioning photography for the exhibition, which includes the work of more than 100 women from across the nation. Those women responded to the 19th amendment’s ratification from all angles: Celebrating the century-old win for women and the work that’s happened since; calling attention to the road ahead for women’s rights; and analyzing the shortcomings of the US even after the 19th amendment passed, with many women of color forced to wait even longer before they could exercise their right to vote.
“It’s ranging from a number of themes, from talking about the body to protests,” Griffiths said. “There are images that are hand-stitched upon, silver prints, color photographs, collage. We have a lot of different kinds of images that are representative of various viewpoints.”
Throughout 2020, many events to celebrate the 19th amendment’s centennial had to be canceled because of COVID-19. But despite facing the pandemic’s uncertainties, Griffiths, Jakubek and CPAC’s executive director, Samantha Johnston, were determined for this particular show to go on.
“We invited these people to create and we feel responsible that they need to be seen and celebrated,” Jakubek said. “We decided we would fight until the end for it to be exposed.”
In addition to the in-person show, the project was always meant to have a big virtual component. From the beginning, Griffiths and Jakubek envisioned an online archive to serve the public for years to come. That archive at the AYRP website will stay up even after the CPAC display closes.
“We want it to live on forever as a reminder of this moment in time when we’re reflecting on the last 100 years and how far we’ve come,” Griffiths said. “We hope people will keep interacting with it. It’s a tool for education and it’s also just a place you can connect.”
The show will stay up at CPAC through November 21. In the meantime, on October 20 and 27, the center will also livestream discussions with some of the artists on its Instagram page.
As visitors start walking into the exhibition at CPAC, Griffiths, Jakubek and Johnston all said they hope the photography there will inspire guests to make their voices heard in the upcoming election.
“Any year is important in which voting takes place, but this year feels particularly significant with a presidential election in November,” Johnston said. “This historic centennial offers an unparalleled opportunity to not only commemorate such a milestone, but to also explore its relevance in today’s culture. I looked at these images of experience from over a hundred women of different generations and was reminded of how crucial it is to provide a space in which people can discover how much their voice matters.”
A Yellow Rose Project will be up at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center, 1070 Bannock St., Denver, from October 9 through November 21. To learn more about the CPAC exhibition, visit CPAC’s website. To view AYRP online, visit the project’s website.