A New Boston Mural Highlights the Voices of Incarcerated Women

The mural is part of a yearlong public art project, "The Year of the Woman."

Ann Lewis, See Her. Courtesy of luigerman, via Instagram.

A new mural in Boston is shining a light both on mass incarceration and issues facing women. Detroit artist Ann Lewis created the piece based on the stories of women who have been in prison, holding art-making workshops with them in preparation for the project.

The piece is part of “The Year of the Woman,” a yearlong project being organized by Now and There, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing temporary site-specific public art to Boston. See Her is the first of five projects featuring female artists that are in the works as part of the initiative.

“It felt imperative to use our collaborative talents to highlight, honor, and support a community that is often invisible,” Lewis told Now and There. “Women, in particular, who are caught up in our correctional systems are often overlooked.”

“This decision to focus on women coincided with a personal exploration of my own feminine power and strengths,” she added. “I have often mistaken my strengths as weaknesses due to the powerful influences of the media, advertising, and art in a male-dominated society.”

The nonprofit Community Resources for Justice put Lewis in touch with McGrath House, a halfway house for female offenders in Boston’s South End. Lewis paid the residents to participate in a workshop, creating collages and speaking candidly about both their hopes for the future and the challenges faced by women in the prison system.

The mural features a photograph of one of the participants, Laura Minot, who particularly inspired Lewis. “I didn’t realize it was this public,” Minot said of the piece to the Boston Globe. “At first I was a little nervous, but I was OK with it in the end because I’ll stand up for women all day long.”

Atop a cherry picker, Lewis has been working 14-hour days to install the work, painstakingly wheat pasting laser-printed photographs to the wall. “Big walls take stamina,” she wrote on Instagram. The mural, which is on pace to be completed July 18, even after a severe storm forced her to redo all of the paper elements, cost an estimated $25,000.

“Ann Lewis: See Her” is on view at 808 Tremont Street, South End, Boston. 

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