A jury from the Niagara Falls cultural community selected Jacob Headley’s nominated work “Progress” as the selection for a tribute artwork to the late local historian Wilma Morrison.
The winning proposal was selected from 15 submissions. Selection was based on response to the objective and themes of the competition, relevance and artistic excellence. It will measure four meters wide by 3.4 meters high and will be installed outside the new cultural center and farmers’ market called Niagara Falls Exchange in Wilma Morrison Yard.
“I chose to depict Wilma’s portrait as the focal point of the render because it is ultimately a tribute to her, her incredible life and family,” said Headley, a visual artist based in Toronto who will receive $5,000 for the project.
“When she heard about Wilma, she was clearly someone who was deeply loved and respected by those around her. Wilma was, among other things: a mentor, a teacher, a historian. It became very clear that she had a deep passion for the preservation of Black history in the Niagara region.
Headley, who has worked professionally in illustration, character design, backgrounds, storyboarding, murals, graphics and comics, said the piece is a representation ” not only of Wilma herself, but also of history, which she was so passionate about helping to preserve.
“Wilma was of the opinion that if we don’t know where we come from, it will be difficult to know where we are going.”
The structure will be installed following the completion of construction on the Niagara Falls Exchange property in the Main and Ferry District, scheduled for this winter.
Last year, Niagara Falls issued a call for black artists to create work in tribute to Morrison, the woman from Niagara Falls whose efforts to preserve and celebrate black history in Canada have earned her national recognition.
Morrison will have a courtyard named after him at the cultural center and there will be a permanent black history exhibit at the Niagara Falls History Museum next door dedicated to him.
Morrison helped save the historic Niagara Falls British Methodist Episcopal Church from demolition in the 1990s. On Peer Street, the church is where many slaves gathered after fleeing the United States via the Niagara Underground Railroad. It was declared a heritage site in 2000.
Morrison died in April 2020. She was 91.