Unity Flag Project

The Unity Flag Project, a nationwide traveling exhibit inspiring empathy and bipartisanship, opens to VWU students, faculty and staff in the Neil Britton Art Gallery on Inauguration Day, January 20, and continues through March 19. A virtual exhibit is available to the off-campus community.

The Unity Flag Project was initiated by Dr. Meaghan Brady Nelson, Assistant Professor of Art Education and Program Director of Fine Arts at Belmont University, in anticipation of the final presidential debate held at Belmont on October 22, 2020. She took the blue and red polarization of our current political climate and used the visual arts to bring them together to foster “purple empathy.” The project was designed to encourage civil discourse, build empathy, and bridge political divides through the visual arts by inviting artists from across the country to create representations of the U.S. flag that expressed empathy for bipartisanship.

Purple empathy is the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another’s political views, political experiences, political opinions, political understandings, political intentions, and political decisions.

–Dr. Meaghan Brady Nelson

The Robert Nusbaum Center was selected to create the Unity Flag for Virginia. “A Beacon of Hope” was one of the 30 state flags displayed during the October debate and features a lighthouse and heart images as symbols of welcome and hope, and to serve as a reminder to remain vigilant in uniting around a vision for a more perfect union, a union in which equality and justice for all rings true.

Visit the Unity Flag Project for more information about the original display.

Invitation to Create a Unity Flag

Local individuals and groups are invited to create Unity Flags. Select canvas submissions will travel with the exhibition on a national tour to promote purple empathy. Digital submissions will be added to the digital exhibition. For more information on guidelines for submission, please contact VWU Art Professor and Curator of Exhibitions for the Neil Britton Art Gallery John Rudel at jrudel@vwu.edu.

We believe that civil discourse in the arts has the power to provide a focal point for dialogue, to reduce barriers to participation and spark individuals into action, to promote new ways of thinking about and understanding issues, and to ultimately catalyze needed change. Following a period of tremendous social unrest in our country, we are hopeful that promoting unity through this exhibition and related events will harness the power of creative expression as a means for positive growth.

Professor John Rudel