Columbia honors remarkable women with new statue
Unveiled today across from the State House
At a morning press conference at the northwest corner of Main and Gervais Streets today, Columbia thought leaders and Mayor Steve Benjamin spoke at the official “unveiling” of Architecture of Strength, a brand new monument celebrating the historical accomplishments of women in Columbia.
Designed to inspire inclusion and honor remarkable women, Architecture of Strength will be a permanent monument to celebrate and honor women in Columbia and is an initiative of Columbia City of Women. The position of the monument confronts the lack of women’s representation in the public sphere and speaks truth to power at the physical intersection of the major power in our community: commerce (Main Street) and government (Gervais Street), across from the State House. Architecture of Strength will inspire the community to learn more about and celebrate the historical contributions women have made to our city, to inspire a more hopeful and inclusive vision of our future.
“Women deserve to be seen and heard in this city,” said Ann Warner, executive director of WREN (Women’s Rights Empowerment Network), who spoke at the press conference. “This is a lasting monument to women from the past and present who pushed boundaries, stood up for others, and made Columbia a better place.”
Architecture of Strength, by Deedee Morrison, is made of 316 polished stainless steel pipes that are laser-cut and welded to create the sculpture. It is also illuminated for night-time viewing in its prominent location. The form begins with the foundation, a circular pillar of strength. The layering of the lives in meaning and the contributions of these women to Columbia, create the form. The sculpture is a form made up of many parts, the parts of the female that are invaluable in every community. Family, vision, courage, strength, integrity, honor, hope, resilience, intelligence, compassion, steadfastness, determination and drive hold our community together. The faceless, nameless nature of this art represents the idea that it takes all kinds of women, all shapes, all sizes, and beliefs, to build a community.
The monument’s front faces the South Carolina State House as a direct statement that though there are a wealth of monuments on the State House grounds, and many of them controversial, none of them celebrate women in any meaningful way.
“As one of the most traveled intersections in South Carolina’s capital city, this monument is a daily reminder of women’s strength, perseverance and power,” said Robin Waites, executive director of Historic Columbia, who also spoke at the press conference.
Historic Columbia, WREN, and Columbia City of Women steering committee thank former First Lady Rachel Hodges for her vision of Columbia City of Women, Central Carolina Community Foundation with support from the Knight Foundation, and Beth Richardson for fundraising support. Additionally, Dr. Mary Baskin-Waters and Mr. Samuel Waters, Jerry Davis in honor of Judy Davis, Sue Doran and Dr. Lilly and Mr. Bruce Filler invested in the creation of Architecture of Strength. One Columbia and the City of Columbia also provided support for this monument, as did Holder Properties and Hood Construction.
Architecture of Strength sets a new tone to spark curiosity and awareness of our collective history, simultaneously encouraging bold acts of belonging and inclusion of the underrepresented, marginalized and segregated members of our society. How we choose to honor and remember the past, will always direct the pathway into our future.
This is the moment of embarkation for Architecture of Strength She is to honor the original City of Women honorees, but she provides inclusion for all. From this fixed luminous point, we incorporate a broader, more encompassing view of our history and move into a new dimension of thought. One of wholeness and unity and fostering a broader expression of justice and equality. Architecture of Strength gracefully stands,17 feet tall on a circular foundation. What was once many pieces of stainless steel pipe in varying sizes, is now welded back together, her strength being created from the sum of parts. As I created her I reflected on the many and the nameless who have come before us and shown the way through strength and conviction.
I have deep gratitude to the City of Women and Columbia to have been a part of this public art journey with you.
Architecture of Strength