LexSeeHer Exhibit Opens

LexSeeHer’s mission is to make women visible. Their 2023 collaborative show at LexArt goes beyond visuals, adding sound, texture and poetry to help gallery visitors appreciate the contributions made by Black women across 300+ years of Lexington history.

Amelia Worthy shares, “this is my third year working with LexSeeHer, and our second year curating an installation at LexArt. It was wonderful to see so many people come through the gallery last year. I hope that as people come in to see the student work, the hand-sewn Dress for Margaret, and all of the aprons, I hope that visitors will have some of the same feelings that I had when I joined the group and got into the history of these women; I could just feel them in my soul.”
One of these historic women is Margaret Tulip, whose life and legacy were explored in the 2022 show. She lived in Lexington for about 75 years. In addition to growing up in town, marrying here and raising children, Margaret’s life invites visitors to grapple with the meaning of “freedom” and “liberty” in pre-Revolutionary years. Margaret was enslaved, then free, then re-enslaved, and eventually won her freedom back in a court suit known as a Freedom Suit.

The “Put Her On the Map: Then and Now” theme for this year’s installation follows women’s contributions across time, including several women included in the new “Something Is Being Done” monument that Meredith Bergmann is sculpting: Phebe Banister Burdoo, Margaret Tulip, Mary Elizabeth Miles Bibb, and Sylvia Ferrell-Jones.

Margaret Tulip first came to Lexington as an enslaved child and was given to Amos Muzzey and Esther Green as a wedding gift from Ester’s parents. Student illustrations help illustrate important moments in Margaret’s life from birth to adulthood. Research Team member Leslie Masson has spent the last two years researching Margaret Tulip’s life. “I initially volunteered to study and document Margaret Tulip’s freedom suit which she filed when she was in her mid-50s. But the project has expanded to looking into her mother’s life and that of Margaret’s descendants – including her son James’s own freedom suit. The exhibit includes examples of the records uncovered during my research. This past year I was able to locate and contact living descendants of Margaret – it is still an amazing experience each time I speak to them.”

Celeste Freeman, co-curator of the LexSeeHer installation, has been connecting with Margaret’s descendants, as well as other descendants who have ties to free and enslaved 18th century Black women from Lexington. Freeman adds, “We have been able to bring back some of the most loved items from last year, and thanks to descendants, there are new layers and voices to explore. These historic women have a living legacy. Their children’s grandchildren bring us into greater connection with each woman. Meeting each descendant has further underscored how important it is to bring these hidden stories forward. With the help of student artists, we also have visual ways to reflect on the unknown stories of Black women who were forgotten by time.”

The upcoming LexSeeHer exhibit at LexArt

This past year the LexSeeHer Research Team continued to grow, and volunteers have unearthed new information about Black women in Lexington. Team member Alexandra Moellman has focussed on Phebe Burdoo and her family. Margaret Micholet has been learning about Cate Chester and her family. The past year’s research efforts enrich the gallery in 2023 to make the trip exciting for returning and new visitors.

Jessie Steigerwald, co-curator and president of LexSeeHer, Inc., remarks that the show’s mixed-media approach offers a chance to blend visual arts, music, poetry and textiles with historical documents. She notes, “the interchange between art and history makes the gallery an engaging place. LexSeeHer is grateful to LexArt for giving us a home during Black History Month. Black women’s stories have received too little attention. LexArt gives our community a powerful space to help us literally ‘see’ women, celebrate their contributions, and take in the obstacles they have confronted.”



A Dress for Margaret
Artists help illustrate the lives of Lexington women from the 18th century forward. Here, student artist Hannah Sul presents Margaret Tulip Sewing. 
Artist: Hannah Sul
Photo: Nicole Mordecai


















VIRTUAL GALLERY PREVIEW – A Partnership between LexSeeHer, LexArt and the Cary Library Foundation
“Putting Black Women on the Map: Then and Now”

Scan Code to register

Virtual gallery event in conjunction with LexSeeHer’s installation at LexArt in celebration of Black History Month. Join this special LexSeeHer Speaker Series event to celebrate Black women in Lexington’s history from the 18th century forward. Learn more about the installation “Putting Black Women on the Map: Then and Now” with exhibit co-curators. The gallery space at LexArt brings our focus to the ongoing research taking place to document the lives of women in the 1700s, including Phebe Banister Burdoo, Cate Chester, and Margaret Tulip, who won her freedom in the courts in 1768.
Moving forward to 1843, we learn about Mary Elizabeth Miles Bibb, the first Black woman to graduate from the Normal School in Lexington. After graduating, Mary Elizabeth went on to become a teacher, abolitionist, journalist, author who helped publish “Voice of the Fugitive”, and founder of integrated schools in Canada – where she had fled with her husband following passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act.
Bringing us to the 21st century, the installation celebrates the life, passion and work of Sylvia Ferrell-Jones, attorney, business woman, and leader in the non-profit world who was committed to addressing racial and gender justice.
Hosted by co-curators, Amelia Worthy, Celeste Freeman, and Jessie Steigerwald, the evening will bring together special guests who helped contribute to the installation, including: descendants and family members of Margaret Tulip, Cate Chester, and Sylvia Ferrell-Jones; Elizabeth Pope, Curator of Books and Digitized Collections at the American Antiquarian Society; LexSeeHer Research Team members Alexandra Moellmann, Leslie Masson, Margaret Micholet, and representing LexArt, Mathew Siegel, Executive Director, and Wayne Davis, Board Chair.
Please register on the Cary Library website to participate.

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