For the month of June, Ellicottville will serve as home to a 10’ bronze statue of Cheryl Strayed. In a lofty mission, artists from around the globe banned together to balance the gender and racial representation of public statues worldwide, creating the Statues for Equality initiative.
Strayed, a novelist, essayist and memoirist is best known for her memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found. This story chronicled her 1,100-mile solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail on which she embarked after losing her mother to cancer. More notably, her memoir was reworked for the silver screen with Reese Witherspoon as the lead.
The artists who sculpted this particular statue are the founders of this mission, Gille and Marc Schattner. Splitting their time between NYC and Australia, Gille and Marc are referred to as “the world’s most loving artists,” having worked side by side for 30 years. Both Gillie and Marc have been very vocal as advocates for gender equality, and as a professional couple, live as equals at home and in the workplace - because that is how a truly loving and respectful relationship should co-exist. Their decisions and responsibilities are shared, and Marc would never assume that he is more capable than Gillie because he is a man. Nor would she let him! (https://statuesforequality.com/pages/about-the-founders)
When the initiative reached out to Griffis Sculpture Park, it was a no-brainer to accept four of these Statues for Equality to put on display. The other three sculptures are of Janet Mock (Actress/Producer), Gabby Douglas (Olympic Gymnast) and Tracy Dyson (Astronaut). “Historically, the park has always loaned sculptures to create intrigue and interest,” Nila Lampman, Executive Director of Griffis Sculpture Park (GSP) told me. “We felt this one would be absolutely ideal for Ellicottville because Cheryl was such a large outdoors advocate.” After its showcase in Ellicottville, it will be permanently installed with two of the other statues in GSP, "while Mock will reside at our city site - The Essex Arts Center.”
Ellicottville is known far and wide for its easy access to recreation, dining, shopping and more. With its notable downtown district being mainly female owned, displaying this statue in Ellicottville truly embodies what the artists are trying to cultivate. In talking with owner of Daff Dry Goods, Laura Solly, she told me what it’s like being part of such a female driven village. “The tight knit community and support of fellow business women (and men) is tremendous and encouraging.” Solly regularly meets with other female business owners to talk over everything from their worries to new business ideas. “You really feel the support of a team.”
As a fellow female business owner, Ellicottville has allowed for my gender to sit second to my business savvy. This is a luxury I forget most women are not afforded. Being surrounded by so many like-minded entrepreneurs, it becomes second nature to turn to the women of this community for leadership and guidance. According to Solly, the best part about owning a business in Ellicottville is “the people I interact with, work with, and have created lifelong friendships with. We work well together! We can be independent! We can follow our individual dreams.”
A Grand Reveal Ceremony for the temporary installation of Strayed’s statue will be held on Friday, June 4th at 5:00pm on the Gazebo lawn in front of the Village/Town Hall, downtown Ellicottville. There will be smooth Jazz for entertainment, along with refreshments. The public is encouraged to attend.
The statue of Strayed has her standing in the middle of a sunflower with her arms open facing upward. A sunflower can grow up to six feet tall and symbolizes love, loyalty and longevity. Strayed’s body language in the statue is reaching up to the sun, taking in the loving embrace only sunshine can provide. When you reach out for something more, the universe will always provide. Strayed’s journey of becoming “unstuck” has molded a generation of young women and her efforts were not in vain. I couldn’t think of a better way to memorialize her and am grateful beyond measure that this statue has found its permanent home so close to mine. Strayed famously said, “Don't surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn't true anymore.” … Just remember, when you’re stuck, reach.