This project begins with a mural, or rather the story behind a mural.
In the spring of 2015 I was invited to paint a mural at the University of Rochester based on a theme of my choosing. After some research, I learned that Susan B. Anthony’s final efforts before her death were to advocate for women’s admittance to the U of R. As I walked through the campus and saw both men and women stream in and out of brick buildings, I felt her continued presence.
Living in Rochester, this had not been the first time I experienced the vibrations of her enduring legacy. One can visit the site of her home that is now a museum, sculptures highlighting the polling location where she was arrested, a square dedicated to her friendship with Frederick Douglass, and her final resting place. Consequently, I was inspired to paint a mural surrounding this concept of Susan B. Anthony’s voice and efforts affecting women of today, women who in turn are inspiring and affecting change in our present day world.
On election day 2016, I joined thousands of woman as they waited for hours to place their “I voted” sticker on Susan B. Anthony’s headstone at Mount Hope Cemetery, here in my city of Rochester, New York. It was a beautiful scene, one of celebration and hope for our changing world; the prospect of a woman in our highest office finally within grasp.
The morning after, I returned to Mount Hope Cemetery for a walk with a dear friend. A cold rain drizzled down on us as we tried to make sense of what had transpired. In the coming weeks and months I spent much time dissecting this as well as the consequences for our country, but in that moment I couldn’t help but feel like I lost a piece of myself. I lost a piece of that hope that parents and grandparents try to instill in their daughters. It was clear to me, in that moment, that women cannot aspire to whatever heights they choose. Our country was not ready or willing to give us that chance.
But in that moment, my resolve also strengthened. Already deep into planning “Her Voice Carries”, its necessity seemed even greater. We as women must find value in each other. We must hold up each other’s voice for the world to hear.
Photos by Hannah Betts.
Watch the video by University of Rochester here on the creation of this mural.