Every woman’s experience is unique, and this year, the Women of Influence honoree award is, too.
Explains artist Valerie Smith of oh, Hopscotch! design: “I wanted to create a piece that could be customized by the recipient to match their mood or style. Each layer is made up of different colors and shapes, and they combine in unique ways to interact with one other. The unique honoree has the opportunity to rotate, layer, and arrange the piece to suit her—mirroring the layers and complexities women embody in their own lives.”
It marks the sixth year a local artist has been commissioned to create the Women of Influence award.
“I see it as a huge honor and a way to recognize the women who have come before me, and made an immeasurable impact on our community,” Smith said. “YWCA is a long-standing beacon of charity and community outreach in Dayton. I was humbled to lend my creative gifts to the 2022 honorees.”
This year’s award reflects the 2022 theme of “lift,” recognizing the things women have, do, and will carry, and the ways in which YWCA Dayton has been helping women rise since 1870. Crafted from translucent acrylic with an oak base, the piece is named Facets and received technical support from Select Signs in Kettering, Ohio.
Its acrylic panels are actually letters from the theme “LIFT,” giving each honoree the opportunity to customize their piece by rearranging the letters. Depending where the opaque white cover piece is placed, different forms and color combinations reveal themselves.
“It’s important to me that my work as an artist and designer makes a difference in the Dayton community and beyond,” Smith said. “I frequently lend my time and skillsets to businesses, campaigns, and movements that advance women and marginalized groups — i.e. political campaigns, marches, and more specifically, the ‘Dayton United Against Hate’ logo of 2019. This project was a little different for me in that it was a new medium, but the sentiment was right up my alley.”
Recognizing the intersection between race and gender is a key tenet of YWCA’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women, a vision that Smith said informs her work as well.
“I’m a Millennial. My generation and Gen Z have grown up in a world where the prejudices against women have been more muted because of the huge advances in women’s rights that were paved before us. But it’s mind-blowing for me that my own mother was born into a world where a woman couldn’t have her own credit card without her husband’s permission. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine how far and how fast we could backslide if we don’t continue to do the work,” she said.
As this year’s Women of Influence – the first to be held in-person since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic – celebrates another class of honorees, it also looks to the next generation of strong women leaders.
“While I have more opportunities and liberties than my mother and grandmothers had at my age, there is still a long way to go — until we are granted equal salaries to men, until we are able to walk down the street at night without fear, and until we see an equal number of women serving in C-suites in major organizations,” Smith noted. “We cannot rest on our laurels. We must be our own advocates, and continue to recognize those among us who have gone above and beyond to serve other women, and especially those women of color and in the LGBTQ+ community.”
To register, purchase raffle tickets, or donate in celebration of an honoree, visit www.ywcadayton.org/woi22.