Scenic Design Professor Tamara L. Honesty and Students Collaborate on "Sisters in Liberty" Exhibition

Tamara L. Honesty, School of Theatre and Dance assistant professor of scenic design, and several students took part in a collaboration between Kent State University and the Opera di Santa Croce in Florence, Italy to create “Sisters in Liberty: From Florence, Italy, to New York, New York,”  on display at the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration on Ellis Island in New York. 

The 3D-printed replica of the Liberty of Poetry statue being created by Kent State University will enable visitors to see the Italian predecessor to the U.S. Statue of Liberty located directly across Ellis Island to Liberty Island.

The exhibition features two distinct sculptural personifications of liberty: New York City’s Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World and Florence’s Liberty of Poetry, seen as the Italian predecessor to the U.S. Statue of Liberty. Kent State sent a multidisciplinary research team to 3D scan and digitally capture Pio Fedi’s Liberty of Poetry statue, located in the Cathedral Santa Croce in Florence, utilizing very high-resolution scan data to create a 3D-printed 80% scale replica.

After the statue was scanned by Joshua Talbott (Division of Information Technology) and Dr. Rob Clements (Biology) in February 2019, the images were transformed into a 3D computer model. Freshmade 3D, a company from Youngstown, OH, was then contracted to create a 80% scale 3D model of the statue using Amclad®, an extremely strong concretel-like substance. In addition to printing the model, Freshmade 3D also carried out finishing processes including sanding out inconsistencies and coating it with an epoxy to ensure a smooth paint surface.

Honesty became involved in the project in May "through complete serendipity." After scheduling a meeting with Design Innovation director J.R. Campbell for a different purpose, the "Sisters in Liberty" project came up in conversation. "I was intrigued," said Honesty, "so I asked, 'who is going to paint it?'"

Throughout the summer of 2019, assistant professor Honesty created samples of paint treatments and corresponded with the museum directors and historians at the Opera di Santa Croce and some of the most talented and experienced scenic artists in the United States. The Opera di Santa Croce sent Honesty photos of the newly cleaned and restored statue while she sent samples to compare coloration and texture. Rachel Keebler, scenic artist and founder of Cobalt Studios, suggested that Honesty use a combination of marble dust and car wax to achieve the desired effect to replicate the statue's Carrarra marble. 

Honesty also consulted with Jenny Knott, Scenic and Coating Product Manager at Rosco, who sent a wide variety of Rosco scenic products to experiement with on Amclad®. Ultimately, the replica and additional items to be featured in display cases were painted with Rosco products. 

After the model's delivery to the university, work started on painting the replica to match the real statue. Over Labor Day weekend, Honesty and students Tetta Askeland and Emma Hisrich began painting the bottom portion of the replica. The more than 180 hour process started by scrubbing the replica with Dawn® dish soap to remove residual grease and dirt. The replica was then coated with Rosco Flexabond™scenic glue and two coats of Rosco Tough Prime™. Multiple glazes were then made using Rosco Premiere Clear™ and Rosco Off Broadway™ scenic paints. 

Honesty, Askeland, and Hisrich painted every weekend through September into the beginning of October and were joined by additional students Samantha Catone, Brian Seckfort, and Travis Williams. Williams worked with a machinist in the physics department to smooth the replica's rays which had been cast out of molten aluminum in the engineering department. Students Alex Barnhart and Steve Sawicki joined the process to build display boxes for the exhibit's smaller items.

Reflecting on the process, Honesty sees the project as an example of breaking down silos that sometimes amongst different academic disciplines. "Just as Pio Fedi's statue, The Liberty of Poetry, holds a broken chain, this project has served to break barriers between colleges, schools, and countries."

On Oct. 10, Honesty, Askeland, Barnhart, and Sawicki traveled to Ellis Island with project leaders Joshua Talbott, Dr. Rob Clements, David Hassler, and J.R. Campbell to install Kent State's portion of the exhibit.

About "Sisters in Liberty"

Visitors to the exhibition will participate in a multimedia experience and be asked to consider the question “What does liberty mean to me?” The exhibition is meant to provide a space for learning and reflection on the quest for liberty and personal freedom and to honor the experiences of immigrants to this country. 

Watch a video about the “Sisters in Liberty” exhibition.

“Sisters in Liberty” debuts at a historically significant time, as well as a deeply important anniversary year for Kent State, which will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the May 4, 1970, shootings on its campus. Born from the wound of May 4, Kent State has become an institutional leader on the study of peace and reconciliation, advancing interdisciplinary approaches for listening to and advocating for all members of our larger community. 

Visitors may voice and record their reflections on the meaning of liberty and immigration through the Wick Poetry Center’s listening wall, titled “Listening to Liberty.” This interactive listening wall is available during the exhibition to capture guest reflections on immigration and liberty.

Kent State and the Opera di Santa Croce will host a number of events to complement the exhibition. The U.S. Consulate General in Florence will celebrate 200 years of diplomatic relations between America and Tuscany. Lectures and programs centered on the themes explored in “Sisters in Liberty” will be presented in Florence as part of the celebration. 

For more information about Kent State and this exhibition, visit


About the Statues
In Italy during the 1860s, the sculptor Pio Fedi was designing a magnificent tomb with a figure of the Liberty of Poetry to honor Giovanni Battista Niccolini, a poet who had inspired and supported the Risorgimento, the Italian struggle for self-determination. The Niccolini monument was inaugurated with a great public celebration in 1877 at the Florentine church of Santa Croce, known as the Temple of the Italian Glories as it is the burial site for some of Italy’s most prominent figures, including Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli. Simultaneously in the 1870s, Frédéric Bartholdi, a French sculptor, envisioned a great gift to the American people in honor of the centennial of American independence. His figure of Liberty Enlightening the World, commonly known as the Statue of Liberty, was inaugurated in New York harbor in 1886.  Both statues bear a significant physical resemblance to each other, as well as a symbolic connection. The Liberty of Poetry was made to represent creative freedom and freedom from foreign occupation, while the Statue of Liberty has long been a symbol of freedom and independence for the American people. However, whether Bartholdi and Fedi ever met or whether they knew of each other’s vision of liberty remains an unknown. Many believe that Bartholdi was inspired by Fedi’s drawings when he was in Florence in the 1860s during the Franco-Prussian War. 

About Kent State University
Kent State University is one of 76 public higher-research universities, as categorized by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and is ranked in the first-tier list of Best National Universities by U.S. News & World Report. With eight campuses spanning Northeast Ohio, a College of Podiatric Medicine, a Regional Academic Center, and academic sites in major world cities, such as New York City, Geneva and Florence, Kent State is one of Ohio’s leading public universities and a major educational, economic and cultural resource far beyond the Northeast Ohio region it has served since 1910. The student body comprises more than 37,000 students, including more than 1,500 international students from nearly 100 countries, and the worldwide alumni family exceeds 251,000. The addition of new learning environments from the sciences to the arts and the development of exciting new academic programs, such as aerospace engineering, geographic information science and business analytics, characterize Kent State’s focus on transformational educational experiences. 

For more information about Kent State, visit

About Opera di Santa Croce
Opera di Santa Croce is the nonprofit organization in charge of the church and monumental complex of Santa Croce from the 14th century. Its mission is to preserve and promote the cultural, spiritual and artistic heritage that stemmed from the Franciscan roots but flourished with the history of Florence into our modern times. After more than six centuries, this is the first time Opera di Santa Croce has created an exhibition outside Italy.

For more information about Opera di Santa Croce, visit

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Photo Caption:

Photo of 3D replica of Liberty of Poetry statue being created:
The 3D-printed replica of the Liberty of Poetry statue being created by Kent State University will enable visitors to see the Italian predecessor to the U.S. Statue of Liberty located directly across Ellis Island to Liberty Island.

Media Contact:
Joni Koneval, 330-672-0116,

POSTED: Wednesday, October 9, 2019 - 10:18am
UPDATED: Wednesday, October 9, 2019 - 10:44am