Susan Holley-Williams is a talented sculptor based in both Little Rock, Arkansas and Chicago, Illinois. She believed herself to be an artist when her third-grade classmates frequently asked her to assist them with drawing projects. She was introduced to clay and sculpture in the ninth grade where she had a very supportive and encouraging art teacher, Mrs. Joy Hudson.
Holley-Williams received a bachelor’s of arts degree in Housing and Interior Design from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. That degree choice came at the advice of an advisor during her freshman year. “Although I chose Interior Design, I never could walk away from art,” she said. “It was always my passion and sculpture is where I expressed myself best.”
After college Holley-Williams built a successful interior design business where she showcased both her creativity and business acumen. She has designed homes and offices for prominent figures, including former President William J. Clinton.
Fate and passion led Holley-Williams back to art, and she taught art for the Little Rock School District, including at the historic Central High School.
She dedicates a large portion of her time to sculpting. Holley-Williams often works in her home studio with clay and wax, creating sculptures that are primarily sought after by private collectors, galleries, museums, and institutions.
John H. Johnson Sculpture
In 2022, Holley-Williams received a prestigious commission from the Walton Family Foundation and Arkansas State Parks. She was tasked with creating a larger-than-life bronze sculpture of John H. Johnson, founder and publisher of several magazines, including Negro Digest, Ebony and Jet.
Mr. Johnson was born in 1918 in Arkansas City, Arkansas. He and his family moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1933. The state sought to honor John H. Johnson’s legacy with a sculpture that sits at the end of the Delta Heritage Trail in Arkansas City.“
The trail starts in Phillips County Arkansas where my husband was born and ends in Desha County where I and Mr. Johnson was born,” Holley-Williams said. “It is truly an honor as an African American female to complete this very special project.”
Holley-Williams dedicated almost a year to meticulously crafting and studying numerous images and characteristics of Mr. Johnson to ensure accuracy in her portrayal of him. “The thing that rang the loudest during every phase was his daughter Linda Johnson Rice’s personal request, ‘I want it to be very close to his likeness, no abstract version.’”
“Mr. Johnson on this particular day is portrayed returning home to share his extraordinary accomplishments with his hometown folks,” Holley-Williams said. “He is prepared to express how successful he became in spite of growing up in such a small town during such a harsh time. Then he has an epiphany. Mr. Johnson now knows that because he grew up in such a small town during hard times, he is now the John H. Johnson we know today.”
The unveiling of the sculpture is scheduled for November 1, 2023, in Arkansas City, Arkansas.
Susan Holley-Williams is married to Dr. Alonzo Williams, a Gastroenterologist practicing in Little Rock. Together they have six children and seven grandchildren.