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Stencil Me In

New downtown mural honoring Utah women rouses conservatives who didn't make the cut.By Katharine Biele


  • Courtesy of Zions Bank

Art: "The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power."

Enter Mia Love and Gayle Ruzicka and the snowflakes of conservative Utah who have turned a celebratory rendering into political dodgeball. Not even Zions Bank could escape their righteous indignation.

Zions CEO Scott Anderson commissioned artist Jann Haworth and muralist Alex Johnstone to create a large-scale work that marks a century since the 19th Amendment was ratified granting women the right to vote.

The five-story tall "Utah Women 2020" mural is displayed on the downtown Dinwoodey Building in Salt Lake City featured stenciled portraits of 250 women from across the state.

The project, however, was immediately besieged by waves of criticism from Utah conservatives. "What was to be inclusive devolved to be divisive and politicized," says Haworth. "The mural is a 'workshop and email friendship quilt.' Reducing the mural to a political football or numbers game is disrespectful to the 175 artists and community members that gave collectively thousands of hours to bring this mural into being."

That politicizing and the collateral criticisms haven't deterred either Haworth or Anderson, who Haworth says has been encouraged by the open dialogue. And in the spirit of dialogue, they invited the artistic pundits to a DIY mural "add on."

"Utah is very good about community inclusion," says Haworth, "If inclusion can work, this is a good place to test it."

Haworth is often noted as the artist who, with her husband, created the 1967 Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Band Beatles album cover. But her enduring legacy may be "A Work in Progress—the Women's History Mural," which she constructed with her daughter, Liberty Blake. It was, in effect, a feminist counterpoint to the Beatles' album cover, which included only 12 women of the 65 people featured.

Some copies of panels from the "Work" mural were carried in the 2017 Women's March on Washington. In 2018, this collaborative project traveled to Milan, Italy, for exhibit and, having now grown to 14 panels, is being shown at the Southern Utah Museum of Art in Cedar City until Dec. 23.

Haworth calls her works organic; it has certainly grown tendrils beyond the seeds she planted.

Yet, conservative feminists in Utah felt unseen in this project. KSL NewsRadio's Lee Lonsberry devoted a broadcast to the aggrieved Republicans who wondered out loud about the "motivation" behind the art.

Mia Love, whom Lonsberry called "too humble" to ask for her own likeness on the mural, complained vociferously about the absence of former U.S. representative and weeping sensation Enid Greene Mickelsen. Love, Utah's first Black Republican congresswoman, and the Eagle Forum's Gayle Ruzicka both bemoaned the omission of the late House Speaker Becky Lockhart. Certainly, Lockhart is seen as an iconic breaker of glass ceilings, but Haworth says none of those missing images were intentional.

Lt. Gov. candidate Deidre Henderson exploded over what she called "the exclusion and marginalization of Republican women's voices." And no, she, too, is too "humble" to put her own likeness up.

"I didn't look at whether a person was a Republican or Democrat," says Haworth. "It's like religious affiliation—you don't mark a person as they belong to this or that," she said. "... it's evolving and that's what we want."

But Lonsberry sees only the missing. "You'd be hard-pressed to find a conservative, a Republican, or anyone involved in the Relief Society—the largest and oldest organization on this planet," he said. "... and somehow these women don't deserve to be commemorated?" Lonsberry seemed upset that Zions had "surrendered" to Haworth all the artistic license to make "those choices."

In truth, that's not exactly how it works, according to Haworth. The process for inclusion was part outreach, part Q&A with artists wanting to cut stencils, part surveying local news reports and books and films, and then recalling the conversations, Haworth says. Her team reached out in several ways including a call-in radio show, a high school survey, an arts festival survey and a call for names at The Leonardo. Plus, she asked for help from the mayor's office, the U of U's science colleges and medical school—basically "anyone who would listen," she says, from "experts to man- or woman-on-the-street, and the list goes on."

She asked for lists of women from all walks of life and drew from databases such as Better Days 2020, which has maintained close connections to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In the final stages, the pandemic prevented face-to-face workshop interactions. So, she sent out an email to an expansive list of individuals requesting advice, input and participation from those willing to contribute at a distance with no workshop, encouraging them to cite someone from their community. Haworth herself probably cut only three images of the more than 250.

"It is a tribute to women's endurance, whether Mormon pioneer or Native American," she says. Haworth also wanted women who were less well known. "We know we failed because there are 1.5 million women who are not on that mural," she says.

To deflect the criticism of the process, Haworth and Anderson agreed to run a workshop with those upset by the omissions. Ultimately, 30 faces have been added to bring more balance to the piece.

It's not a capitulation. The idea all along has been to heal the huge divisions in the country. "Hearing from people who think differently is what democracy is all about," she says.

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An earlier version of this story had an incorrect year given for the creation of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Band Beatles album cover. It should have been 1967.