As Vancouver resident Claudia Carter continues to fight stage 4 pancreatic cancer, she recently crossed one more thing off her bucket list.
Carter, 66, is known around Clark County for her artwork and efforts to educate people about local Black history. In February, during Black History Month, Carter installed her fourth consecutive Black History Month exhibit at the Vancouver Community Library.
When Carter was diagnosed with cancer in February 2020, she was worried she wouldn’t live to install another exhibit, and yet she did. In April, Carter achieved another major wish — or bucket-list item — by selling a sculpture to Friends of the Vancouver Community Library, which donated her sculpture to the downtown library.
Now, Carter’s sculpture is a fixture of the library at 901 C St., residing in the Vancouver Room on the fifth floor. But it might be moved to the Columbia Room, which faces outside, when the library has a permanent display pedestal and signage made, said Beth Wood, senior public services librarian with Fort Vancouver Regional Libraries — Vancouver Community Library.
“All I know is that this piece I have done is going to live at the library forever, which is the best place because I love books, history and art,” Carter said.
Carter’s sculpture is called Elephant Goddess and symbolizes the quiet strength that both elephants and women possess.
“I wanted people to look at it and feel that quiet strength that we have in us,” Carter said.
In an email, Wood said Carter is passionate about teaching the history of Black people in Clark County; Carter has volunteered for the library, worked with children’s programs, and displayed artwork at the library’s First Friday artwalks and its Gray Space gallery.
“Claudia is the type of person who brings a community together through her actions and her energy, and we are so delighted to have one of her sculptures be on permanent display at the building where she volunteered her time and talent,” Wood said in the email.
For the first time this year, Carter was able to bring her Black history exhibit to Clark County schools in the form of an educational video and study guide.
Carter said it’s important for Black children to know they have local roots.
“Black history is all history, because it touches everybody,” Carter told The Columbian in February. “Once we acknowledge and accept that, we will be so much further along in this world.”
As Carter nears the end of her life, she’s raised roughly $6,000 out of a $12,000 fundraising goal to help herself and her family. Carter, who has two adult sons, used to work at the Boys & Girls Clubs, but she had to leave due to the severity of her cancer. She said she regrets not better preparing financially for death, but she acknowledged, “You tend to think you are going to live forever.”
“It’s hard to talk about,” Carter continued. “I’m not trying to give up hope. I’m just trying to look out for my family. I don’t want to leave my family struggling.”