‘Monument, Footprints, and What Remains of the 40 Acres’ Explores Civil Rights Movement in Catapult Student Artist of the Month Exhibits


“Monuments, Footprints, and What Remains of the 40 Acres: A Three-Part Movement of the People,” featuring the work of Southeast Missouri State University student artist Kelly Downes, is the second Student Artist of the Month exhibition of the Fall 2020 exhibition season at Southeast’s Catapult Creative House.

The exhibition is currently on view in three locations including the second floor of Catapult Creative House, 20 North Pacific and the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri. The exhibition will run through the month of September, with a closing reception will be held from 5-9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2 at Catapult Creative House. Face coverings will be required, and social distancing guidelines will be in place.

“Monuments,” a series of photographs at Catapult Creative House, was shot entirely on an iPhone and printed in full color on canvas. The method and materiality speak to the iconography of the Civil Rights era. It implores the viewer to consider how the proliferation of images and symbols affects their meaning. This portion of the exhibit asks viewers to re-examine these historical images, photographed on a journey of the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, and to consider what it truly means to stand in these sacred spaces.

“Long Walk to Freedom” by Southeast student artist Kelly Downes as part of the “Monuments” exhibition at Catapult Creative House.

By exhibiting “Monuments” at the University’s Catapult Creative House, Downes acknowledges that society collectively stands on the shoulders of teachers and would not understand the methods of direct action without the spirit of creativity, humanity, discipline and sacrifice they embodied.

“Footprints,” a series of screen prints at 20 North Pacific, located at 20 N. Pacific St., features 12 hand-painted screen prints in a triadic scheme. Through the use of popular imagery and a pop art aesthetic, viewers are asked to explore their relationship with the depicted iconic artists. Each figure has had a profound intellectual and spiritual impact on the artist, which ultimately led to the creation of this project. The series represents the philosophical intersectionality of all of the figures. This medium was complete experimentation for the artist, who had never screen printed prior to this project.

Downes chose 20 North Pacific to display “Footprints” because they exemplify the amplification of Black voices, Black artists and Black imagery — creating a space for the future of Black thought in Cape Girardeau.

In “What Remains of the 40 Acres,” an interactive exhibit in the Micro Gallery at the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri, located at 16 North Spanish Street, Downes encourages community participation to create an assemblage piece. The artist has cut storylines concerning Civil Rights in the local area from local newspapers from the past six months and will begin to construct the storyline. Community members are invited to bring photographs, artwork and articles to hang on a corkboard.

The interactive exhibit and assemblage represent the work the community does together, and community participation will form the final product.

“Both in one’s creative process and in the larger movement for freedom, expecting perfection ultimately disables progress,” Downes said. “Discipline is the dedication to giving our dreams form.”

As a part of a program to promote community based and integrated art making, a student artist is chosen to exhibit their work at Catapult Creative House’s Student Studio Gallery each month. These exhibitions will showcase a range of work from individual artists that highlights their personal and professional artistic explorations as a part of the southeast Missouri art community. These artists explore the physicality of the human condition, its relationship to nature and the role of art in contemporary society. In addition to the exhibition, attendees are welcome to tour the studio spaces, view ongoing projects and engage with the artists.

Catapult Creative House is located at 612 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Hours of operation are Monday through Saturday 8 a.m.-4 p.m. All gallery exhibitions, events and talks are free and open to the public. For more information contact Leah Powers at lepowers@semo.edu or (573) 651-2742.