Local AAUW branch donates painting to College

Local AAUW branch donates painting to Maryville College

March 7, 2017

“Sisters,” a large mixed media painting by local artist RaRa Schlitt, was recently donated to Maryville College by the Maryville branch of the American Association of University Women in honor of the College’s recent launch of a new minor in gender and women’s studies.

Schlitt’s painting was completed about 10 years ago in support of the AAUW’s “Sister-to-Sister” project for middle and high school girls. From 2007 until the program’s ending in 2013, the painting was displayed at all Sister-to-Sister summits. From 2013 until her retirement in December 2016, Vandy Kemp, Maryville College Dean of Students and AAUW member, displayed the painting in her Bartlett Hall office.

“I found it to be provocative and interesting to visitors – a statement about the importance of ‘sisterhood,’” Kemp said of the work. “Although I’d love having it in my living room, that's not its intent, so I came up with an idea that RaRa and AAUW leadership enthusiastically endorsed.

“I'm very excited about the inception of the gender and women's studies program, and I proposed that the painting be hung somewhere in Thaw where it could be viewed by students of that particular discipline,” she continued.

Kemp said that the painting seemed a fitting gift, too, because of AAUW’s purpose and long relationship with the College.

"The mission of AAUW is to empower and support women and girls, and the Maryville branch has partnered with Maryville College for over 80 years to do that,” she said. “This beautiful work is a perfect way to do that and to mark the longstanding relationship between AAUW and Maryville College."

Dr. Frances Henderson, associate professor of political science and coordinator of the new gender and women’s study minor, thanked the donors and said she was pleased to see the painting displayed in Thaw Hall.

“The painting ‘Sisters’ represents the potential for cooperation and coalition building among women globally in light of the complex and sometimes contradictory nature of women’s lives,” she said. “It is a fitting and generous gift from the AAUW to mark the launch of MC’s gender and women’s studies minor, and is an excellent way to draw attention the study of women’s lives.”          

Subject inspired by children’s play

The painting, which measures roughly 4-feet-by-five-feet, depicts three girls holding hands in a circle. The word “Sister” is painted in English and in other languages.

Schlitt said she was inspired to create the artwork after watching young girls on a playground play in a circle.

“They were careful not to let the one beside them fall. I started sketching them because it was beautiful seeing how they were strong for each other and thereby, being strong for themselves,” the artist said. “I could also see the positive energy of looking up, working together and enjoying the moment.

“Before I finished the painting, I received a letter from a childhood friend in Sweden whom I had lived with through an exchange program. We have stayed in touch over 45 years through letters and visits. She always signs her letters in Swedish,” Schlitt continued. “This gave me the inspiration to include different languages on the painting. Sometimes it is our differences that add texture to life.”

Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the Fall 2018 semester is 1,154.