USU contributing to collaborative art project honoring notable women

LOGAN – A traveling mural has made its way to Utah State University. Even though it isn’t completed, the piece “Work in Progress” is on display in the Merrill-Cazier Library. According to Jann Haworth, the artist overseeing the project, it will probably never be finished.

And that is its purpose.

It’s also one of the reasons for its name. The plan is to keep adding to it. The other reason is because of the people represented in the collage. It is made up of portraits of women who have helped humankind progress in some way: women like Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Anne Frank and Laura Dekker, who at 16-years-old, became the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe in a sailboat, solo.

“(The project) will be there as long as there are women contributing to society,” Haworth said, “which we don’t see coming to an end anytime soon.”

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Haworth, who is best known for creating the 1967 Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album cover, is working alongside Liberty Blake to develop the project, but they aren’t the ones creating the portraits on the collage. They are letting artists found during the mural’s travels do that.

In the beginning stages of the project, Haworth realized she was unable to name a woman physicist, a woman mathematician or a woman philosopher, even though she knew they were out there.

“I’m not an expert in astrophysics,” she said. “I can get to certain names if I Google them, but we can go deeper.”

Instead of trying to come up with a list of names herself, Haworth decided to go to those who are most familiar with them. That’s where places like Utah State University come in. Students and faculty from departments across the university will choose notable women from their respective fields. While in Logan, the faces of 27 women will be added in two new sections on the outside edges of the mural.

“We have 27 faculty and students from across the university representing the colleges participating,” said Katie Lee Koven, director of USU’s Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art. “What we ask that they do is submit the name of a woman that is a catalyst for change in their field.”

While that is happening, Haworth and Blake will try not to interfere.

“We try to stay as lightly in the editorial role as we possibly can,” Haworth said, “so that if a psychology student or a professor says that this woman is really important to psychology then we’ve gone to the expert. They have picked this woman out of a host of women.”

The timing was perfect for a USU visit. It is the Year of the Arts at USU and the art museum is closed for renovation and expansion. Koven was looking for another way to bring the university together to participate in an artistic, creative process.

“When I learned about this mural project I thought, ‘Oh, this is fantastic because we can get participation from faculty and staff from all over the university,’” Koven said. “I wanted, specifically, to make sure we had representation from across the university.”

The USU artists are currently creating the stencil portraits of the women. After that, Koven said Blake will take the stencils back into her studio and add them to the collage. An unveiling of USU’s contribution to the mural, along with an artist panel, will take place in late-March at USU.

“This is one of those projects that bring people together,” Koven said. “It encourages us to reflect and to empathize and to hopefully be inspired and be thinking about this individual that they have chosen to create and add to this mural.”

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