Mural Installed Honoring Rita Hester in Allston
Mayor Michelle Wu and the Mayor’s Office of Arts & Culture, in collaboration with the Boston Art Commission and Street Theory, today announced the start of installation of a mural honoring the life and legacy of Rita Hester at 506 Cambridge St. in Allston. The mural, titled Rita’s Spotlight, was proposed by former Boston Artist-in-Residence Golden, and the City of Boston commissioned artist Rixy to create the mural as part of the City’s Transformative Public Art Program.
"This mural is a wonderful way to acknowledge the contributions of Rita Hester and Boston’s LGBTQIA+ community as a whole, and we’re so excited to bring this mural to the Allston neighborhood during Pride Month,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “Whether it’s youth walking by on their way to school, or residents visiting local businesses in the area, we’re confident that this mural will continue to inspire and uplift the surrounding community for years to come.”
Rita Hester was a Black trans woman and beloved Allston community member who lost her life as a result of transphobia and anti-trans violence. Rita Hester was known for her congeniality, boldness, and love of entertaining. Her passing was felt by countless individuals and sparked a movement in Boston and beyond.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance was started by trans activist Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil dedicated to Rita Hester and other trans individuals who died from anti-trans violence. It is observed annually across the world on November 20. This mural is the first public artwork honoring her in the City of Boston.
The City identified 506 Cambridge St., which is adjacent to the Jackson/Mann K-8 school, as the site for the mural given Rita Hester’s history living and being among the community in the Union Square area of Allston. The City also engaged with members of the trans and nonbinary community in an artist recommendation and site selection working group as well as a community engagement working group for their insight and expertise during the mural process. Lala Shanks served as the mural consultant for this project, and led a community engagement process with both Rita’s family members and members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
“I love the inclusion of her own poem in the background and the use of tonal roses,” said Blue Nguyen, a member of the community working group for the mural project. “I appreciate the trans pride flag colors inclusion and how they are weaved into the mural. Overall, it looks great so far. I am very excited to see the finished mural.”
The mural is expected to be completed by early July. Rixy will be participating in an artist talk to share more about the design and community engagement process for the mural on Wednesday, June 29. Details about a larger event will be shared soon.
“It’s part of the process to think of others’ reflections: how Rita will so vibrantly be seen like this, and how others, especially her loved ones, always see her,” said Rixy. “I feel like a handy tool in making a visual of these perspectives.”
The City also supported Transgender Emergency Fund of Massachusetts’ Rita Hester Scholarship Fund, which opens for applications on June 24. The fund will award $2500 will go to four low-income, Black transgender women pursuing a post-secondary degree, certificate, or accreditation, and $1,000 will go to three low-income, transgender women of any race pursuing a post-secondary degree, certificate, or accreditation.
“Most of us seem like higher education is out of our reach,” said Chastity Bowick, Executive Director of the Transgender Emergency Fund of Massachusetts, Inc. “We have to focus on basic survival, but now with the scholarship program this will be hope for transgender individuals to give them the confidence and guidance to obtain higher education.”
Rixy was one of 10 artists commissioned over the past year to create murals totaling more than $1 million as part of the Transformative Public Art Program. Additional murals will be installed this summer in the South End, Roxbury, and Dorchester throughout the summer.
“As we work to make the City’s public art collection more reflective of the communities that make up Boston, we’re thrilled to be able to bring a mural honoring the legacy of such a beloved community member to her neighborhood,” said Chief of Arts and Culture, Kara Elliott-Ortega. “Boston’s LGBTQIA+ community plays such an important role in the city’s arts sector, and it’s great to also be able to recognize the entire community in this way.”
Learn more about the City’s public art projects.About Rixy
Rixy (she/her) born 1995 in Roxbury, Massachusetts, is a Latinx Caribbean reclaimed street artist. She reflects narratives of feminine exuberance around her stylized + inclusive storyworld of Cúcala. These works, most translated through her Public Art + Studio-Mixed Assemblages, blend to build a practice of Sensual Social Awareness. In material, climate + flavor, Rixy's figurations exhibit on street-wide + institutional spaces. Recently, she attended TheCreateWell’s Converging Liberations Residency at Mass MoCA, + participated as a POW!WOW!Worcester Golden Year Muralist; she is currently an Artist-in-Residence with Elevated Thought, + Public Art Accelerator Artist with Now+There.