Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Student draws artistic inspiration from Civil Rights Trail

Friday, October 9, 2020
The start of the What Remains of the 40 Acres exhibit at the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri. Downes encourages public participation in the piece.
Photo by Clay Herrell

Southeast student Kelly Downes, also a gallery associate at the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri, is using inspiration from a trip across the Civil Rights Trail — a trail that stretches across 15 states from Kansas to Alabama — in a series of three art pieces on display across Cape Girardeau. The pieces can be viewed at Catapult Creative House, 20 North Pacific and the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri.

Downes, a non-traditional student, said a stop at Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham, Alabama, had a big impact on the pieces.

“There was a homeless Vietnam veteran named Anthony who had grown up in Birmingham and was alive during the Civil Rights movement,” Downes said. “He walked us through every square inch of that park telling us what happened and where.”

The piece located at the Arts Council titled “What Remains of the 40 Acres” is an exhibit Downes hopes the public interacts with. Downes cut storylines from various local newspapers over the last six months. All of the cutouts involve the Civil Rights movement in the Cape Girardeau area.

Downes encouraged the public to leave a poem, song, story, photo, quote or anything people feel is relevant to their experiences on the pieces.

The goal of the interactive piece is to represent the work the community does together.

Downes’ interest in freedom movements was piqued at a young age. Downes said the history and culture of the Civil Rights Movement has been influential on her as well as informative.

Downes said she hopes people learn to respect art and increase their understanding of other cultures.

“There is no right way to live out this existence,” Downes said. “Doing these types of things helps us map out what our purpose looks like, and I want people to follow that path for themselves.”

A piece titled ‘Monuments’ was on display at Catapult Creative House. That exhibit had its closing ceremony on Friday Oct. 2 in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

The pieces will be on display beginning Friday, Oct. 2, at 20 North Pacific and the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri.