UA Artists Contribute to Alabama Bicentennial Celebration

  • June 18th, 2019

By Rachel Dobson

University of Alabama art and art history students, faculty, staff and alumni have been intensely involved in the state of Alabama’s 200th anniversary celebrations over the past two years.

Cover of the book Alabama Creates: 200 Years of Art and Artists
“Alabama Creates: 200 Years of Art and Artists” features current and past faculty and alumni.

Alabama History in High Relief

UA Professor Craig Wedderspoon is designing part of Montgomery’s Bicentennial park and sculpture project planned for the west side of the Capitol building to be unveiled in December, with help from Assistant Professor Jonathan Cumberland. Tuscaloosa artist Caleb O’Connor is creating 16 bronze relief panels with Wedderspoon, who is designing and installing the panels’ bases and supervising the casting process. Cumberland recently joined the team to work on graphics for the project. Wedderspoon is also working with O’Connor on a Tuscaloosa Bicentennial sculpture to be installed at Manderson Landing on the Black Warrior River.

Artists Featured in Publication

Fifteen faculty and alumni of the department are included in a special bicentennial publication honoring notable Alabama artists: “Alabama Creates: 200 Years of Art and Artists,” published by the Alabama State Council on the Arts and UA Press. The coffee-table book will be published in July. Dr. Elliot Knight, ASCA’s new director and a UA alumnus, was the book’s chief editor and project director.

Close-up of April Terra Livingston's sculpture Motherwork
Motherwork by April Terra Livingston

Commemorating Alabama’s Medical History

Alumnus April Terra Livingston completed three sculptures for the Mobile Medical Museum. Motherwork, which celebrates midwifery, is installed in the museum’s Robert Thrower Medicinal Garden, along with Livingston’s Portrait of Bessie McGhee, a Poarch Creek midwife and herbalist. The Portrait of Dr. James A. Franklin, Sr., one of Mobile’s earliest African American physicians, is now on view in the Mary Elizabeth and Charles Bernard Rodning Gallery as part of the museum’s special exhibit, “Dreaming at Dawn: African Americans and Health Care, 1865-1945.” Livingston’s sculptures, made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, have been designated a Bicentennial project by the Alabama Bicentennial Commission.

Community Bicentennial Celebrations

Solo exhibitions by instructor and alumnus Tom Wegrzynowski, instructor Charlotte Wegrzynowski and alumna Kerry Kennedy at the Kentuck Gallery and the Teer Gallery at the Kentuck Arts Center in Northport were inaugural exhibitions for Kentuck’s “Year of Alabama Artists,” designated a Bicentennial event.

The Oval sculpture by Craig Wedderspoon in Montgomery
Oval by Craig Wedderspoon

One of eight outdoor sculptures at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Wedderspoon’s welded aluminum sculpture, Oval, is installed in the new John and Joyce Caddell Sculpture Garden at the museum. Oval is part of Art in the Garden: The Inaugural Sculpture Garden Installation that celebrates Alabama’s Bicentennial and demonstrates the depth of creativity found in the state. The sculptures will be on display through spring 2020.

Casting Alabama’s Literary History

Cast bronze sculptures by Wedderspoon’s students were unveiled in downtown Monroeville in April as part of the Literary Capital Sculpture Trail. The trail features Hannah Lincoln’s bronze sculpture of a mockingbird that honors Monroeville native Harper Lee. The sculpture trail, made up of 14 cast bronze works, celebrates 10 writers who put Monroeville on the literary map, including Lee, Truman Capote, journalist Cynthia Tucker and novelist Mark Childress. While not an official Bicentennial event, the sculpture trail and its unveiling were planned to coincide with the 200th anniversary celebrations.

Artists included studio art major Hunter Abdo, senior anthropology major Alysa Boyd, sophomore studio art major Zane Boyd, senior BFA major in sculpture and anthropology major Amber Daum, graduate student in creative writing and geography Josh Dugat, Jenn Gault (BFA 2018), special student Jim Harrison III, senior art history major and studio art minor Morgan Harrison, Pat Hoban (MFA 2019), senior studio art major Jonathan Lanier, senior studio art major Hannah Lincoln, BFA major in sculpture Ringo Lisko and senior studio art major Alyson Smith.

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.