Up on the side of the building at 119 East Market Street lines are drawn. Large angular shapes are now visible. Vote is sketched loud and proud. Soon color will be added. Downtown West Chester’s first mural, in who knows how long, is coming together.
“This is very new to us,” Chester County Fund for Women and Girls Executive Director Michelle Legaspi Sanchez said about the organization’s massive nod to the centennial celebration of the 19th Amendment. The group, whose mission is to ensure that women and girls have the resources and opportunities they need to thrive, always knew they wanted to do something to commemorate the milestone.
The group thought maybe they’d erect a series of banners or maybe even a statue. “[West Chester Public Arts Commission] has been very helpful in guiding us,” said Michelle. It was the public arts commission that suggested a mural and helped secure the space. From there the CCFWG knew where they wanted to go.
They wanted to commemorate that important moment in women’s and voting rights but also to show the history of the movement through time – continuing into the future. A visual passing the baton, if you will, to females and young people today.
These concepts, as well as those of inclusivity, and of course, a strong call to action, were all outlined in the project’s call for art.
“I really tried to think of past, present and future generations,” said project artist Kenda Beitzel. “I tried to embrace [that history] in a bold, engaging manner. So the audience can see themselves in these women.”
Kendra was one of the 12 candidates that submitted designs to the call for art. While there were a lot of impressive ideas, it was Kendra’s blend of the movement’s iconic symbolism with clean modern lines and a bold color palette that ultimately won over the judges.
Of course strides have been made since the first suffragettes donned their purple hats and sashes of white, but there is still a long way to go. As Michelle explained, women, and especially women of color, in Chester County continue to struggle against a wage gap that is greater here than elsewhere in Pennsylvania.
“This is a great public announcement,” said Michelle. “People have an opportunity to use their power to vote and make changes.”
And mural, if all goes as planned, is perfectly timed as well. The official reveal of the mural is scheduled for this weekend. A loud, proud, reminder we all have a hard fought civic duty to perform on Tuesday.
If weather cooperates, a small private unveiling ceremony is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday. The event is invitation only but will be live- streamed on Chester County Fund for Women and Girls Facebook page. You can also drive by anytime to see the mural in all its glory.