Lift Every Voice

Lift Every Voice Exhibition, Extended to July 21, 2023
Lift Every Voice
Fifteen Hooked Rugs Reproduced from the “I Am The Black Woman” Series by Elizabeth Catlett, 1947
Guest Curated by Maddy Fraioli
(2023 Seasonal Exhibit, May 13–July 21) Exhibit Extended!

PARTICIPATING ARTISTS: Mary Austin, Annette Dixie, Maddy Fraioli, Gwen Hess, Dorye Jackson, Marty Liptak, Liz Marino, Lisa Meecham, Tish Murphy, Deirdre Pinnock, Laura Ponkos, Benita Raleigh, Lauren Salisbury, Robin Venters

Fourteen American and Canadian women from Nova Scotia to Seattle and Vancouver collaborated on hooking rugs based on the block prints that artist Elizabeth Catlett first produced in Mexico City in 1947.

Elizabeth Catlett’s, The Black Woman, is a series of fifteen linocuts commemorating African American women’s historical oppression, resistance, and survival. The prints were later published as part of a children’s book about James Weldon Johnson’s 1900 song, Lift Every Voice and Sing, which today is the Black National Anthem.

During the pandemic in 2021 and 2022 the group met on Zoom, chose the prints, discussed the artist, and reflected on how they might create their hooked pieces to accurately reflect what Ms. Catlett conveyed in the block prints she created 75 years ago. They realized that Ms. Catlett’s images and message resonate as much now as they did then and chose to honor them in loops.

“I am the black woman. I have always worked hard in America, in the fields, and in other folks’ homes. I have given the world my songs. In Sojourner Truth, I fought for the rights of women as well as Blacks. In Harriet Tubman, I helped hundreds to freedom. In Phyllis Wheatley, I proved intellectual equality in the midst of slavery. I have studied with ever-increasing numbers. My role has been important in the struggle to organize the unorganized. My reward has been barred between me and the rest of the land. I have special reservations and a special fear for my loved ones. My right is a future of equality with other Americans.” 
— Elizabeth Catlett, The Black Woman (1947)

In this celebration of Elizabeth Catlett’s work, the artists hope, as she did, that their collected work “be of service,” and “work to the end that love, peace, justice, and equal opportunity prevail all over the world.” In their words, Catlett was, and is, “one of our own.”

Below is a sample of the rugs in “Lift Every Voice”

“I have given the world my songs.” Liz Marino, South Egremont, Massachusetts, USA“My role has been important in the struggle to organize the unorganized.” Lauren Salisbury, Roseville, Ohio, USA“In Sojourner Truth I fought for the rights of women as well as blacks…..” Laura Ponkos, Ancram, New York, USA“In Harriet Tubman I helped hundreds to freedom.” Mary Austin, Seattle, Washington, USA

Special thanks to Northern McGown Teachers Workshop for the generous contribution toward framing and mounting this exhibit.

A full article on this project is in the Jan/Feb 2023 issue of Rug Hooking Magazine.