A life sized bronze of Nettie Depp. Photo from artemisinitiative.org
On Thursday morning, July 7th, Kentucky's Historic Properties Advisory Commission will meet at the Old Governor's Mansion in Frankfort. Item one will be a review of the use of the Rotunda and other public spaces in the Rotunda.
Second on the agenda is a discussion of a life size bronze statue of Kentucky educator, Nettie Depp. Also on the agenda is a "recent citizens' request regarding registration of the Jefferson Davis Statue".
Readers may recall the firestorms last summer over depictions of Confederate heroes in public spaces following the shooting at a historically black church by a white separatist youth. South Carolina's public officials decided to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the capitol. That move started a national conversation on how to remember the Civil War and those who served on the losing side.
Kentucky native, Jefferson Davis, the only president of the Confederacy is featured prominently in the Rotunda of the Capitol Rotunda. After extensive public comment, Governor Steve Beshear asked the Historical Properties Advisory Commission to review the appropriateness of the display.
On August 15, 2015, Beshear issued a statement announcing that the Commission voted to allow Davis' statue to stay, recommending there be "appropriate historical context."
The conversation about Confederate symbols goes on. This summer, the City of Louisville and U of L sought to remove a Confederate memorial on public property. After an ill-timed press conference alerted those opposed to the move, supporters of the monument filed suit to block the removal. At this writing, the memorial remains.
Kentucky women are missing from the Rotunda and voices have been raised to remedy that lack. Minorities also are missing and an effort to include a statute of recently deceased Louisvillian Mohammed Ali is underway.
The Nettie Depp bronze is the creation of sculptor Amanda Matthews. The bronze statue is sponsored by the Artemis Initiative, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to getting women's art into public spaces. For more on The Artemis Initiative, Inc., click on "more" below.
Depp was the first woman in Barren County to become a professional educator. She was the first woman to run for public office in Barren County and won the post of Barren County School Superintendent in 1913, seven years before Kentucky women won the right to vote. While in office, she built 13 new schools and repaired 50 existing buildings. By the time she left office in 1917, she had retired an inherited district debt of $19,000 and added music, art, and business to a unified curriculum.
Depp is reported to be a cousin to another famous Kentuckian of the same name, Johnny Depp. She is also a cousin of the sculptor Amanda Matthews.
Matthews advocates a bronze portrait of Depp inside the entrance of the Capitol building where she can "greet" the thousands of school children who come for tours every year.