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commUNITY spotlight: Julia Bottoms picked to design a statue honoring the late Shirley Chisholm

Buffalo artist Julia Bottoms has been selected to design a statue honoring the late Shirley Chisholm.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Julia Bottoms smiles when discussing an upcoming project that honors the late Shirley Chisholm.

Chisholm was the first Black woman to serve in the U.S. Congress and the first to run for president of the United States of America.

Bottoms said the work of art will have a natural effect "representative of who she was as a person rather than, you know, when we think of statues, we think of just kind of stiff, traditional portrait, but we wanted to go kind of beyond that and create something that's a little bit more lively and representing her as a person."

Expect to see a cool, funky outfit and the gold pattern that Chisholm was known for wearing.

"The other big thing is the stance that she actually has, so I have her in front of a podium giving a speech, but I have her holding up the peace sign which she was known to do during her speeches and just poised, but relaxed at the same time. I want it to show that she had confidence, but she also had that ability to relate to people and really reach them when she speaks," Bottoms said during an interview with Channel 2's Claudine Ewing for commUNITY.

"We're creating a sculpture that's going to go outside of her final resting place in Forest Lawn. The sculpture is going to be bronze overtop of the granite base."

Bottoms is the current artist in residence at the Albright-Knox Northland site. You can see some of her work on the Freedom Wall. 

Bottoms is excited about the project. She had to write a proposal and add what Chisholm meant to her on a personal level.

"She knocked down barriers for Black women to go into fields, whether it's for her politics, where traditionally it's dominated by white men," Bottoms said. "And I feel that in the sense of like working in fine arts, we look at a long history of fine arts where it's mostly, we think of older white men.

"So to be a Black woman creating and getting a project of this magnitude is significant to me, not only because it's a project I'm excited to work on, but I see the parallels between the work that she was trying to accomplish and me standing here in 2022. You know, being able to produce work like this that that would have been unheard of in a past time."

Chisholm had a famous quote, "If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair." Expect to see it incorporated into the statute.

The statue will be installed near the Birchwood Mausoleum in Forest Lawn this fall.