On Wednesday, October 25, the Western College Alumnae Association (WCAA) Board of Trustees were invited for a reception at President and Dr. Crawford’s residence, Lewis Place. In addition to the 20+ WCAA Board members, sophomore Art Education major Isa Obradovich was invited to discuss her artwork about Freedom Summer, which was inspired by the training events that took place on the Western College campus in June 1964.
Isa discussed the meaning behind her image and then signed and numbered individual archival prints of her drawing to personally give to each of the WCAA Board members. “I am so incredibly honored to have been invited to speak at the reception! I was so overwhelmed by the kindness of President and Dr. Crawford, and all the Trustees, too,” said Isa. “I cried like a little baby! I will definitely never forget this wonderful experience, and I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity.”
Isa’s drawing is a collective charcoal portrait of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman, the 3 Freedom Summer volunteers who left the Oxford training early to investigate a church burning in Philadelphia, Mississippi and were then murdered by the KKK.
She learned about Freedom Summer in Dr. Stephanie Danker’s ART 195 Introduction to Art Education class, in her first semester at Miami University. The Freedom Summer module incorporates watching the Training for Freedom video (hosted on PBS, created collaboratively by many Miami University faculty and staff) about the training that took place at Western College, a written reflection, and then an artistic reflection and artist statement. Students are provided the choice to share their artistic reflections as a form of art activism and education. Isa’s drawing was noticed by RCCAM Director Jack Green, who recommended it to President Crawford for consideration for inclusion with historical documentary photographs in the Freedom Summer Room, occupying the living room at Lewis Place. It was framed and commissioned for display for 3 years.
President Crawford also highlighted Isa’s artwork in his State of the University address this fall. Her artistic response reads,
“My charcoal drawing of the three men killed in the Freedom Summer effort, Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner, is a representation of how a combined effort can lead to significant lasting change. This piece was made as an artistic response to the Freedom Summer documentary we watched in Dr. Stephanie Danker’s ART195 (Intro to Art Education) class, which talked about the Freedom Summer effort and how the college-aged volunteers who were untrained in activism and had never been to the south before trained at the Western College for Women to prepare to go to Mississippi and help get more Black people registered to vote. I think that watching the documentary and being assigned this artistic response/reflection assignment was crucial in getting myself and my classmates to empathize more deeply with this revolutionary event that happened on what is now a part of our campus. Many of us had never even heard about the Freedom Summer movement, especially those of us who are from different states, so having this new knowledge and being able to use art as a tool for visual communication and advocacy was a really good experience for us. For me, personally, my dream job is to teach art as a means of visual communication to English Language Learners, and this assignment reinforced how valuable it is for everyone to be able to express their feelings and respond to the world around them. I’ve done some work regarding advocacy and social justice education in the past with my art and online presence, but having this assignment framed in such a way that made the visual element the vessel for communicating my thoughts and feelings was infinitely and indescribably valuable to me, and I hope to implement similar concepts in my future personal work and teaching practices.”
The Western College Alumnae Association, Inc. (WCAA) was established in 1974 upon the closing of the college. The mission of the association is two-fold: To preserve communication within the Western family; and to support education and human values. Over the past 49 years, the WCAA has successfully maintained connections with loyal alumnae through a biannual magazine, regional gatherings, conferences, and on-campus reunion in June. Westerners have endowed scholarships, campus preservation funds, and other academic enhancements totaling $17 million. In addition, the WCAA has supported nearly 3,300 students with $11 million in scholarship awards. Working productively with Miami University, the WCAA Board has ensured the legacy and spirit of Western will continue in perpetuity.
June 2024 will mark the 60th anniversary of Freedom Summer. Events to commemorate the anniversary will take place throughout 2024 on campus and throughout the community.