MSU StratCom student brings photo gallery of influential women in history to Lansing this month

In conjunction with Women’s History Month, the Impression 5 Science Center in Lansing has a new art display up this month, and the mastermind behind the exhibit is MSU StratCom student, Shawna Morton.

The exhibit displays hand drawn pictures of influential women in history, drawn by second and third grade students at Donley elementary school in East Lansing.

“While I was in my undergraduate program, I learned about some amazing influential women in history and I was honestly confused as to why I didn’t learn about them when I was younger,” said Morton.

Morton’s love for all forms of art started back in her own elementary school days, growing up as a theatre kid, and always working with her hands. These days art has become a passion project of sorts and this was a way for her to connect her love of art, advocacy, communication and continued learning she explains.

“I was trying to think of an engaging way for younger students to learn about these women, so I started creating hand-made trading cards of women in history and selling them on my Etsy,” said Morton. “I eventually thought it would be better if I got them into the hands of school aged students, and even got those students involved in creating the artwork inspired by someone they learned about.”

Morton eventually reached out to Amy Miros who is the art teacher at Donley elementary school and gifted the 41-card decks to her art students. These 95 students then created an art project inspired by someone they learned about from the cards.

“The art exists in trading cards and posters that showcase drawn images on the front, and researched information about each woman on the back,” said Morton.

Some names of these women include Ella Fitzgerald, Marsha P. Jordan, Razia Sultana, Nanye-hi, Rachel Carson, and many other (41 women to be exact).

“The skillset I’ve learned in the StratCom program actually ended up being very beneficial to me in the organization process of this gallery,” said Morton. “Everything from knowing how to use Canva, to being my own self-advocate and reaching out to media sources in hopes of getting press for the opening event was huge. The biggest thing has just been being able to communicate effectively and professionally across the board with all the different parties.”

The art will be showcased all of March on the top floor of the center in downtown Lansing. The printing of the cards and posters has been funded by the Pope Diversity Fund through MSU. 

“I would love to be able to do this full-time and open more galleries across the state in the future,” said Morton. “Hopefully I can get to a place one day where this type of project can fund itself.”