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Local artist to design statue honoring the late Shirley Chisholm at Forest Lawn Cemetery

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Posted at 1:32 PM, Jan 10, 2022

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — New York State Senator Sean Ryan (D - 60th District) announced Monday a local artist, Julia Bottoms, has been selected to design a statue honoring the late Shirley Chisholm at Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Chisholm made history as the first Black woman to serve in the United States Congress as well as the first to run for president. She died in 2005 and is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery at the Birchwood Mausoleum, her grave site engraved with her campaign slogan "Unbought & Unbossed." She was born in Brooklyn in 1924, and after marrying Western New York native Arthur Hardwick Jr., they made Williamsville their home.

"Bottoms’ concept is designed to evoke emotion and inspire reflection through a series of elements that reference Chisholm’s life and legacy. It features Chisholm standing before a podium adorned with the 1972 Democratic National Convention’s seal, with her hand raised high in the air displaying a peace sign. On the side of the podium is a plaque featuring Chisholm’s famous quote: 'If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.' Propped against the side of the podium is a folding chair, providing a symbolic reference to the quote," a release says.

A steering committee guiding the creation of the statue began accepting proposals for the sculpture in October 2021. Bottoms' concept was selected and she will next present a 3D rendering of her concept. The statue will be installed near the mausoleum this fall.

Being selected for this project is a deep honor for me. I have been given the opportunity to celebrate the legacy of a woman whose work has opened doors for me. I live in the reality of Shirley Chisholm's vision for the future: a future in which Black women bring seats to tables that the world thought they'd never have a place at. Shirley sparked the imagination of women everywhere when she made her historic run. Seeing her boldly try for that which had not yet been done echoes here in 2022 with my own work. As a Black woman in the fine arts world, my art has fought to create representation where it has been lacking, and to redefine the idea of what a professional visual artist looks like. With each project I work on, it is my hope that the next generation will find inspiration in it. Just as I have traveled the path laid by Chisholm's life and legacy, I hope to also pave the way for the women who come after me. So it is with deep gratitude to Chisholm and the other trailblazers who have preceded me that I begin work on this incredible project.
- Julia Bottoms

Sen. Ryan said Bottoms is a Buffalo native and earned a bachelor’s degree in Art and a master’s degree in Multidisciplinary Fine Arts Studies at the University at Buffalo. Bottoms is currently an artist-in-residence at Albright-Knox Northland.

"This public initiative will demonstrate Shirley Chisholm’s incredible legacy to the entire Western New York community and beyond. The statue will help to convey who Ms. Chisholm was and what she meant; both to Buffalo and to the entire country. The statue will capture her legacy, her impact on our community, and her demonstration that women – particularly Black women – are capable of anything; even (and especially) if it has never been done before," a release says.