The Power of Transforming Our Walls and Our Minds

By Amanda Bucci - Program Coordinator & Director of Art and Culture

As you walk through the corridors of the Mariposa Center for Girls, you can’t help but be inspired by the beautiful artwork throughout. We are proud of our conscious decision to create an inspirational space where the art on our walls reflects the power of our mission. The murals have been the international and local collective work of artists that often integrated the girls themselves into the creative process. Throughout the years, we have worked with mosaic artists, painters and graffiti artists to create a visual, artistic hub of girl empowerment that tells a story and teaches the importance of sharing  their voice and their perspective.

Six years ago, driving by what is now the Mariposa Center for Girls, you would never have imagined that these abandoned, dilapidated buildings could be converted in to a beautiful, cultural center that celebrates the powerful work that we do.  Today, as you pass by, the first thing you see is a mural (created under the artistic direction of Xaivier Ringer), together with our girls and team members. Throughout the six-week process, the girls took an active participatory role in the development and execution of the mural; reflecting on their own ideas of what it means to be a Mariposa girl. The impact of this daily visual reminder gives our community a sense of pride in the positive results that a collaborative effort can have on a public space. The finished mural is now a community landmark and the gateway to the Center; a snapshot of the amazing things taking place beyond the confines of the wall.

Inside the Center is the Women Activist Portrait Project- a perfect example of how we have successfully engaged our visitors and girls in a visual learning experience. This project features portraits of Haitian, Dominican and United States women activists who have proven to be agents of change in their communities or on an international scale.  The women featured range from a Dominican rural woman, to a Navajo woman who fights against domestic violence, to Myriam Merlet; a leader in the Haitian feminist movement who perished in the earthquake of 2010. We currently have completed 12 portraits, all beautifully telling their own story and adding to the richness of the Mariposa Center experience. The portrait series project has served as a starting point for conversations and program development, as we delve into establishing courses that focus on identity, race relations and the important work that these women have done for their own communities. Within the series, there is a full-length mirror that echoes the Mariposa motto, “I am the Most Powerful Force for Change”, reminding the girls that they too are part of a lineage of women activists that have the capacity to change the face of their future.

We have also worked hard in diversifying the mediums used for the Center’s beautification projects.  Mosaic artist Annemarie Zwack used her talent to engage the Mariposa girls in hand-building individual clay pieces that were used as the components to create the compelling portraits of Dominican agricultural rights activist, Mamá Tingo and abolitionist, Harriet Tubman. together with the helping hands of hundreds of volunteer Community Engaged Learning groups throughout the years, we have taken broken tiles ready to be thrown out from local hardware stores and transformed them into beautiful masterpieces of color and texture, often reflecting important issues affecting our community.  For example, our undersea waterscape mural reminds our girls of the importance of protecting the waterways on a daily basis.

Each piece of art on our walls has been an opportunity for valuable lessons, gained leadership skills and visual messages of empowerment. Here, at the Mariposa Center for Girls we firmly believe that creating a beautiful space filled with art that reflects our values has the power to radiate that message to our community and to the world. There is valid opportunity and a learned experience with every glance of the art. It is a visual landscape that has the potential to change the minds and hearts of those who see it.