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Prescott Artist Highlights Constitution Days Before Election

Angela Gervasi

In the weekends leading up to the November 3 election, the words of the United States Constitution echoed through downtown Prescott. 


The modest crowd outside the Yavapai County Courthouse might have been mistaken for a protest, or a rally — but this particular gathering was neither. Instead, Prescott residents had gathered for a series of public readings of the U.S. Constitution.

Multimedia artist Edie Dillon had enlisted local residents to read the document aloud in the city’s courthouse plaza.

Dillon hoped the project — entitled “Hear These Words” — would bring a sense of unification in the weeks leading up to a historic and polarizing election. Volunteers read the Constitution for two hours straight.

During each reading, a participant held up a mirror to the crowd. Dillon said she wanted observers and listeners to see themselves reflected in the Constitution. She decided to organize the project after protests in September unveiled political tension and division in Prescott. The project, Dillon said, sought to reclaim the Constitution for everyone — regardless of political background.

“Artists do a couple of things,” Dillon said. “And one of the things we do is frame things so you can see it more clearly. And artists also reframe things so that they can be seen differently.”

Dillon said the Constitution felt like a fitting, non-partisan choice for the project. It lists rights that apply to all Americans — from freedom of speech, to the right to protest. Without hesitation, Dillon listed the amendments that stuck with her the most, like the 13th Amendment, which sought to end slavery, and the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

“I think it's important to realize we're all people who live under this founding document,” Dillon added. “And I find it very poignant to stand on the steps and look out at the kids playing, and the people living their lives and realizing that not everybody in the world has the protections that we have.”

Melanie Bishop volunteered to read excerpts of the Constitution days before the election.  

“Edie made sure we weren’t wearing anything that represents a party or a candidate,” Bishop explained.

For Bishop, the project felt positive and hopeful — a way to escape some of the election-related stress. 

“I have trouble figuring out ways to get away from just the partisan divide right now,” Bishop said. “To read the constitution aloud … even the phrase, ‘we the people,’ made me choke up.”

Reader Diane Wolcott McQueen, said the Constitution had a huge impact on her life. In 1971, during the Vietnam War, the 26th Amendment was ratified, lowering the voting age from 21 to 18.  

McQueen was a teenager at the time.

“I was able to vote. And that meant a lot,” McQueen said. “I was right on there on the cutting edge of being able to vote at 18, and nobody before that had been that age and allowed to [vote].”

Kristin Rose listened in the audience, in part to support her mother — one of the readers. 

“During this time, especially this week before the election, having the opportunity to come together no matter what our differences are and find unity in the constitution and in each other is just so healing,” Rose said. 

Rose, a mother of three, added that she’s staying hopeful about what’s to come after November 3rd. 

“I hope that we can have a future for our children,” she said, “that will be based upon these rights and responsibilities that are laid out in the constitution.”