By Beth Treffeisen
On a hot, sunny afternoon on Monday, June 26, artist and activist Ann Lewis was hard at work putting up the finishing touches on her mural See Her that showcases the hopes, doubts and humanity of the incarcerated women of the McGrath House.
Commissioned by Now + There, this temporary mural reflects the specific realities, desires, and decisions facing women transitioning out of prison.
Before the rainstorms hit and delayed the project on the evening of Tuesday, June 27, Lewis and her assistants were almost finished on the imagery that is a combination of paint and wheat pasted imagery. The temporary mural will remain up for less than a year.
After spending two days with the residents of a local re-entry program for incarcerated women run by Community Resources for Justice, Lewis spent a week creating her latest design for the temporary mural located at 808 Tremont Street.
“That’s very short; usually a piece can take a month,” said Lewis. “But it was really important for me not to pause the project and then have the women whom I worked with leave McGrath or be out of their sentencing and then not have them represented on the wall.”
She continued, “That disconnect felt much more important than my sanity for the next few weeks. Maybe I will do it differently next time but that was the driver for our really exponentially fast time – I’m tired.”
During her time with the women of the McGrath house, Lewis asked them to create two collages: one focusing on whom they are now and the second on whom they will become in the future.
Discussions circled around on how these women will make their goals and what it will take for them to achieve them once they return back to their communities.
A lot of the dialogue circled around making better choices or making new choices or changing the type of people the women spend time with, said Lewis. There was also a lot of discussion about climbing the ladder and reaching goals; themes that are all reflected in the mural.
The woman being shown as part of the mural is a resident of the McGrath House.
“This was on the first day and she was kind of like I got to go to this thing, so you got to take my picture now,” said Lewis. “She stood and had this perfect stance but, she is kind of skeptical and kind of looking at me like I don’t know what you’re doing…and I like that.”
Lewis said that on the mural she is kind of looking out onto the street and at the people who are leaving the People’s Baptist Church.
“There’s a direct eye contact with her if you look up,” said Lewis. “She’s always staring at you in that skeptical way.”
Other hidden details include the design that covers her face from the top, which is a picture of the light fixture from below that the women see as they enter or leave the McGrath House.
In addition, the maze on the bottom has a secret message that spells out the word “Choice”, a major theme in the discussions.
Lewis said one member of the Church summed it up by saying, “It is the maze of life. Sometimes you got to make choices and sometimes you just don’t know and you got to navigate.”
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A Wrap Party to welcome the neighborhood to the finished mural will be held from 5:30 – 7:30pm on Tuesday, July 18. Everyone is welcome to come, meet the artist, and grab pictures of the newly painted mural.