Virginia Coffey: Alcohol Marker, Prismacolor Pencil, and Archival Ink
Recently, I was selected as one of the region’s female artists participating in the inaugural 10___Women Project.
10 ___ Women: A People’s Liberty Grant Funded Project
10 ___Women will celebrate a “first cohort/class” of 10 historic women who made an impact on Cincinnati. The “___” is meant to be a placeholder for an apt descriptor that will distinguish and unite this first class. The project will have three facets to reach different audiences. The release event will include created displays with original artwork and dramatic interpretations telling the stories of the women, an educational booklet, and storytelling from women today who have been inspired by these historic women. The project will culminate with a release event in June, and a digital archive launched in July. The coordinators of the 10___Women Project want the girls of today to be inspired and emboldened by the women of yesteryear. By focusing on the impact that was made by women on a local level, they reinforce the idea to “think global, but act local.”
Save the date, and location, for the culminating event:
Harriet Beecher Stowe House
2950 Gilbert Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45206
Listed below is the incredible group of female artists, who will be creating new portraits for the initial 10___Women:
Marreya Bailey: Commissioned Cover Art
Hannah Parker : Theda Bara
Jo Ann Berger : Edna Murphey
Natalie Grilli: Cora Dow
Kate Rowekamp: Venus Ramey
Jennifer Baldwin : Dorothy Dolbey
Christine Ochs-Naderer: Dottie Kamenshek
Sara Leah Miller: Jessie Partlon
Lauren Darpel: Sister O’Connell
Arielle Goldberg: Sarah Fossett
Jamie Schorsch: Virginia Coffey
Artist Statement: Virginia Coffey
“The hardest thing in this world to do is like people for what they are – regardless of the artificial barriers of color and worship.” –Virginia Coffey
Virginia Coffey was an American social reformer and civil rights activist who worked for improved race relations in and around Cincinnati, Ohio. Virginia arrived in Cincinnati in 1924 to teach at an all-black school, one of the few opportunities for African-American teachers. Instead of finding a progressive northern city, she found a segregated city. Virginia fought to integrate areas of the city, including Coney Island where she coordinated an event protesting the segregation at the gates of the park. In addition to the multiple committees and organizations that Virginia partnered with throughout her life, she formed the first Girl Scouts troop for African-American girls and became the first woman, and first African-American, Executive Director of the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission in 1968. Throughout her life Virginia worked to achieve her goal of getting people to listen to each other, getting to know each other, and treating each other as human beings.
The portrait created as a representation of Virginia Coffey’s impact includes symbolism related to the Coney Island protest and her role as a leader for the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission in bridging the gaps of a divided community. The divisions of the landscape become united by color. Gladiolus, a symbol of faithfulness, sincerity, and integrity, frame the image of Virginia, calling emphasis to her strength of character and perseverance. Symbolic association with the Girl Scouts emerges from behind the gladiolus as a sign of her fostering and growing similar characteristics amongst young women. The Canaries, representing the power of voice, illustrate a connection with freedom and inspiration of Virginia’s message being carried through generations.