If you visit Portage County, Wisconsin this summer, you may notice murals being installed on libraries, markets, gas stations, and below bridges. This expansive artistic project is part of a collaboration between Arts Midwest and CREATE Portage County. A series of eight murals are being created to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which began a decades-long movement to secure women’s right to vote.
Meet the artists who are working on these murals, inspired by the words of women from historically marginalized communities.
Meet the Artists
Isaac Tapia & Rodrigo Alvarez (IT-RA Icons)
Mural Location: Adelante, Almond WI
Quote: “Don’t be afraid to reach for the stars.” – Ellen Ochoa
A mural by Erin LaBonte: Splash of Color, 2020, Downtown Two Rivers Collaboration with Don Krump
IT-RA is a collaboration of Kansas City Muralist Isaac Tapia and Rodrigo Alvarez. The Duo began working together in the summer of 2017, when they were commissioned two murals at the Richardson Early Learning Center. They are painting a mural to celebrate the growing Latinx community in Almond, featuring a young girl looking up at the stars and based on a quotation by Ellen Ochoa, the first Latina astronaut.
Mural Location: Falcon One Stop, Amherst WI
Quote: “When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” – Malala Yousefzai
Erin attended University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, and returned to small town Wisconsin after living in Los Angeles and Philadelphia. She is passionate about making art accessible and weaving it into the everyday of rural life. She is creating a mural based on the Yousefzai quotation that shows a bird in flight as the inspiration for the text.
Mural Location: Mitchell Square Building, Stevens Point WI
Quote: “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Jessie Fritch attended University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, and has been a working artist in Central WI for the past 15 years. She will create a mural with 19 of her other “artist sisters” celebrating the women who pushed for change in America: those who fought prior to the Suffrage Movement, those that continued to push for equality over the past 100 years since 1920, and future trailblazers.
Kristin Thielking, Keven Brunett, and Rowen Brunett
Mural Location: HH Bridge, Stevens Point WI
Quote: “I must be a mermaid. I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.” -Anais Nin
Professors Kristin Thielking and Keven are partnering with 10th grader Rowen Brunett to create a mural celebrating the voice of Anais Nin. In the mural, words will flow handwritten, through the imagery, floating like the seeds, sparking creativity, new growth and courage in others to feel the confidence to express their voices, even if the subject matter challenges social norms
A painting by Christopher Sweet – Smoke Dancer | Acrylic on canvas
Mural Location: Fernwood Acres, Amherst, WI
This installation will pair with an original poem about the Haudenosaunee women who inspired the Women’s Suffrage Movement.
Ho-Chunk Nation tribal member Christopher Sweet is working with his cousin Denise Sweet, White Earth Ojibwe tribal member and former WI Poet Laureate to develop an artistic Interpretation of Denise’s original poem, “Song for the Seven Sisters.” This opportunity will be a reminder that Native American presence is strong and thriving in Wisconsin.
Mural Location: Old Central Waters Building, Junction City WI
Quote: “i love the way i feel when i pass the moon and i holler to the stars i’m coming through Beep Beep.” – Nikki Giovanni
Jason Tetlak has a unique style to his murals that often integrates hidden messages and images that pop out when his viewers wear 3D glasses. This mural will feature Giovanni’s text on the surface but reveal an old steam engine that honors Junction City’s history as a train junction.
Mural Location: Almond Public Library, Almond WI
Quote: “Keep planting and sowing, living and knowing beautiful things take time” – Morgan Harper Nichols
Wisconsin artist Amy Zaremba works as a lead artist with non-profit community mural organization (DAMA). She is displaying her personal style and aesthetic as a woman and a mother in a mural that will honor the agricultural history of Almond.
Mural Location: Vietnamese Market, Stevens Point WI
Quote: “Lasting change cannot be forced, only inspired.” – Kao Kalia Yang
First generation Hmong artist Xee Reiter is creating a mural depicting the diaspora of Hmong refugees, shown carrying their belongings, symbolic of leaving home or arriving in a new place that will become home. As of 2010, Portage County is home to 1,200 Hmong. The mural pays homage to not only the Hmong settlers residing in Portage County but to all of the families that have left their homeland to settle in other places around the world, as well as those who did not make it.
To follow the artists’ progress, follow CREATE Portage County on social media.
Xee Reiter stands next to one of her murals
This project is part of a national partnership with the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts. The Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission was created by Congress to coordinate a nationwide commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, ensuring that Americans across the country find inspiration in this important milestone. As one of six U.S. Regional Arts Organizations, Arts Midwest received funding to support the creation of a mural commemorating this anniversary within its nine-state region.