State Senator Sean Ryan announced that local artist Julia Bottoms has been selected to design a statue honoring the late Shirley Chisholm. Chisholm, who is entombed in Forest Lawn’s Cemetery’s Birchwood Mausoleum, made history as the first Black woman to serve in the United States Congress and the first to run for president. The statue will be installed near the mausoleum this fall.
“We received several impressive submissions for this project, and the steering committee had a difficult decision to make,” Ryan said. “The concept that has been selected stood out for its thoughtful symbolism, and for its ability to authentically convey Shirley Chisholm’s personality in a single pose. In her proposal, Julia expressed a meaningful personal connection to the subject, describing her appreciation for the many doors Chisholm opened for Black women in America. I am thrilled that we have identified a local artist who is such a great fit for this project.”
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.
“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,” Bottoms said. “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.”
The steering committee guiding the creation of the statue announced a call for proposals for the sculpture in October 2021. The committee selected Bottoms’ design concept after reviewing submissions from a diverse pool of artists. In the next phase of the design process, Bottoms will present a 3D rendering of her concept to the steering committee.
A Buffalo native, Bottoms studied at the University at Buffalo, earning a bachelor’s degree in Art and a master’s degree in Multidisciplinary Fine Arts Studies. She currently serves as an artist-in-residence at Albright-Knox Northland.