Sunday, May 13, 2012

Women’s Mural

Happy Mother's Day!

The Women’s Commemorative Mural, painted in 1979, has been a longstanding presence in Helena at Last Chance Gulch and Broadway. Funding came from the Montana Arts Council, the Helena Indian Alliance, President Carter’s CETA program, and other sources. Designer Anne Appleby worked with eight teenage girls, teaching them all aspects of research, planning and design. Many Helena women put their brush strokes on the mural. The figures include an old woman and a little girl who are the same person, representing the true pioneer as well as time and change in Montana. There’s a school teacher who brought education and culture to the far reaches of the frontier. Fanny Sperry Steele, the famous bronc-buster, on her favorite pinto, stands for independence, grit, courage, determination and the freedom to be what you want to be. The suffragists, ladies of the evening, a modern housewife, and two musicians underscore the diversity of Helena’s women. It is the sleeping mother with her newborn baby, however, that is central to the mural. The model was Helenan Debi Corcran and her son Eli who was born as the mural was being designed. They are wrapped in the quilt of the past, a symbol of things handed down from mother to child and of women coming together in the spirit of community for quilting bees. An eclipse of the sun occurred during the mural’s creation. It was such a profound experience it was included in the design.  Finally, the last panel illustrates the unspoiled wilderness of Montana, the pristine country that all people who have lived here have loved, and the generations of women who have gone before us. This history from a feminine point of view was meant to last no longer than twelve years, but more than thirty years later, it still graces the side of the Livestock Building.

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