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UMTV: Civil Rights Art

United Methodist artist Pamela Chatterton-Purdy has loved art since she was a child, but two major events have shaped her work. One was 9/11, when she made a series of icons searching for the presence of God in a tragic event.  In this UMTV encore from 2008, Chatteron-Purdy talks about also using her personal experiences of the civil rights movement in the U.S. to bring that struggle out of the pages of history books. Kim Riemland reports.

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Script:

(Locator: Cape Cod, Massachusetts)

As with any artist, there is more heart than hand in this work, inspired by dark days in the civil rights struggle. 

Pamela Chatteron-Purdy,  Artist: “You wouldn’t stone an animal and kill it.  Why would anybody stone a black person and kill them?  It’s just so bizarre.  It’s just hard for me to fathom that kind of treatment.” 

After marching hand-in-hand with African Americans in the ‘60s, Cape Cod artist Pamela Chatterton-Purdy adopted an African-American son and another child of Vietnamese and African-American descent… and learned firsthand about discrimination.

Pamela Chatterton-Purdy, Artist: “We had people that told us that we were bringing incest into the family because we had now a black son. Martin Luther King and so many other martyrs lost their lives just struggling for their constitutional right to have a full life like most Americans."

Now works in wood and gold leaf memorialize 16 people and events critical to the civil rights  movement. 

(Artist shows icon) “Children’s crusade, Birmingham, Alabama.  Over 1,000 children jailed.”

This lifelong United Methodist sees the icons as windows to the soul. They are on view in the Boston state house, schools and churches.

The Rev. Wesley Williams, Orleans United Methodist Church: “It’s a perfect fusion of art and information. This needs to be seen.”

Ruth Bournazian, Member, Orleans United Methodist Church: “It certainly brings you back to a very sad time in our history. Hopefully, one that will never happen again.”

Dan Freitis, Cape Cod Resident: “I sense the holiness of what they portray.  And the struggle of a people to be free.”

Pancheta Peterson, Cape Cod Resident: “Those who forget the past are bound to repeat it.  We are also being resegregated in housing and in education. Perhaps this will jolt us back to reality.”

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Learn more about the artist and view the full civil rights icon collection online
Or contact Pamela Chatterton-Purdy at 508-430-1422.

Media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, at 615-742-5458.
This story was first published in 2008.