Making History in Bronze

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By SHERRA DUNKLIN | Photography by SHERRA DUNKLIN & EBONY BLEVINS

Susan Holley Williams was born and raised in Dumas, Arkansas, where she gained an appreciation for small town life. From a very young age Susan excelled in the arts. She received a bachelor’s degree in Housing & Interior Design from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Art was still her greatest passion, which led her to pursue a certification to teach art through the Arkansas Department of Education. While teaching art for the Little Rock School District, she also managed her own interior design business. Susan was hired as one of two designers to decorate former President Bill Clinton’s personal office in the foundation building.

 width=For years Susan treated her art like a hobby. It wasn’t until her husband, Dr. Alonzo Williams, began to notice just how many pieces of sculptures began to stack up around the house. He then got her to agree that there would be no more collecting art from other artists until she started to sell and share her work with the world. Through relationships with galleries, juried shows and museums, she was able to see that there was a significant public interest in her “hobby.” Since then, Susan enjoys sculpting mostly commissioned pieces and has been overjoyed with the opportunity to create her largest and most significant piece by far.

Susan was commissioned by the Walton Family Foundation and the Arkansas Parks Department to create a bronze statue of John J. Johnson for the opening of the John H. Johnson Commemorative Plaza at the southern end of Delta Heritage Trail State Park in Arkansas City, Arkansas. Johnson was born in Arkansas City in 1918. He moved to Chicago where he built an international publishing empire. “His small-town roots are very important to me. We were both born in Desha County a few miles apart,” says Susan. “He passed away in 2005, and many young people don’t know who he is. I’m interested in making sure his legacy is known and lives on. This bigger-than-life sculpture is substantial and significant in creating an awareness of his existence.”

Art isn’t the only thing on Susan’s plate. Family keeps her busy the majority of her time. “I feel so blessed to have my 94 and 96 year old parents and almost 104 year old aunt still around,” she shares. Susan is a daughter, a wife, a mother and a very enthusiastic grandmother, which she is affectionately referred to as “Mimi.” Finding balance is something the Williams family strives for and Mimi is the “Glue” that holds it all together.

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