Around 60 local politicians, community leaders and other New Haven residents joined together Tuesday morning to celebrate the completion of New Haven artist Kwadwo Adae’s Women’s Empowerment Mural — located on the New Haven and Hamden border of the Farmington Canal.
Adae finished the mural after months of work and three May public meetings, in which over 140 members of the community discussed the mural’s content. Adae also hosted open painting days throughout the summer, in which members of the public contributed to the mural’s creation. The mural represents 14 women of a variety of races, ethnicities, sexual orientations and religions holding the torch of the Statue of Liberty. Some of the women are representative of real figures of the community, while others are fictional.
“It’s very significant how it represents a variety of different identities. It is significant that a man made visible his solidarity with women; it shows that we can use our privilege and craft to be in solidarity and uplift the rights and due respect of people of other identities than us,” Katie Jones, who is represented on the mural, said.
Adae runs a local art school in New Haven, and has been hired to paint multiple murals throughout the city — including one at the Fair Haven School and another at the Afro-American Cultural Center at Yale.
Adae’s mural project was sponsored by a $12,000 grant from the state of Connecticut, along with support from various Elm City and Yale organizations including Neighborhood Housing Services, a nonprofit that works to revitalize neighborhoods in New Haven, the Yale Office for New Haven and State Affairs and REI sporting store of Milford, to name a few.
James Paley, executive director of Neighborhood Housing Services, said that he wished values such as the importance of diversity and inclusion represented by the mural and the New Haven community were present in the country as a whole.
“This means an enormous amount to the community because the artwork represents the empowerment of women and the diversity of society in an important time,” Paley said.
Local politicians emphasized the power of Adae’s work. In a speech to the attendees, Hamden City Council member Justin Farmer said he was glad to see the community lifted and transformed.
State Rep. Robyn Porter, D-Hamden, concurred.
“This community and so many others need healing right now,” Porter said to the crowd. “This wall represents to me the community, the love, the restoration we need. Women are the rock of our community, the birther of our nations. Take a piece of this mural with you and hold it in your hearts.”
During the event, Adae introduced some of the models for his mural, including Florence Caldwell — who is considered a pillar of the Newhallville community. According to The Arts Paper, Adae said he chose to represent women because he was moved by the level of sexism he had witnessed towards women of color in his life.
Local residents, artists in the community and members of various local nonprofits came out to Tuesday’s event. Sarah Reed, an artist in the New Haven community, said the mural is moving in how it celebrates diversity.
“Thank you for making life like a river flow through this neighborhood,” said Ward 20 Alder Delphine Clyburn, addressing Adae. “People will see this and get lifted.”
Newhallville is a historic neighborhood in the northwest section of New Haven.
Helena Lyng-Olsen | firstname.lastname@example.org