Photo from artist talk with Rixy in front of Rita's Spotlight mural.
Rita Hester was a Black trans woman and beloved Allston community member. She lost her life as a result of transphobia and anti-trans violence. Her passing was felt by countless individuals and sparked a movement in Boston and beyond. Trans activist Gwendolyn Ann Smith started the Transgender Day of Remembrance as a dedication to Rita Hester and other trans individuals who died from anti-trans violence. It is observed annually across the world on November 20.
In 2020, former Boston Artist-in-Residence Golden proposed a mural to honor the life and legacy of Rita Hester. The following year, we released a call to artists for this mural as a part of the Transformative Public Art Program. The City engaged with members of the trans and nonbinary community in working groups during the mural process. Lala Shanks served as the mural consultant for this project, and led a community engagement process that included:
Rita’s family members,
members of the LGBTQIA+ community,
and staff from the Massachusetts Transgender Emergency Fund.
The City commissioned Rixy to create the mural, which was installed in July 2022. The total budget for the project was $48,500.
The City identified 506 Cambridge St. as the site for the mural. The site is next to the Jackson/Mann K-8 school in the Union Square area of Allston. This section of the neighborhood is particularly significant because Rita lived in the area. She also spent much of her time frequenting local business establishments like The Silhouette Lounge on Brighton St. and Model Cafe on North Beacon St.
For the mural design, Rixy spoke with Rita's family to learn about Rita’s life, her activism, and some of her passions, including animals and poetry. Rixy also spoke with a community working group via zoom, who shared their input on the mural design. The final design depicted Rita surrounded by roses and vibrant colors from the trans pride flag. The mural also features a quote from one of Rita's poems in the top right corner.
Photo of completed mural, courtesy of the artist.