The mural is located along the entryway to the della test kitchen restaurant at The Wynwood Yard at 56 NW 29th Street. The Wynwood Yard is open to the public on Tuesdays through Thursdays from noon to 11 p.m. and from Fridays to Sundays from noon to 2 a.m.
Fueled by a project using PhotoVoice, an arts-based research methodology, and led by local visual artist Jenny Perez, the project presented the girls an opportunity to use art as a method of expression and healing. They created a large-scale mural that is popping with color.
“There are so many stories here: the power of art to heal and inspire, the importance of community-based research, but, ultimately, this is a story about the possibility that exists when women come together in support of one another and work toward a mutual goal,” Claudia Kitchens, CEO of Kristi House, said.
The project began when Lauren Suarez, a doctoral candidate in the Counseling Psychology Program at the University of Miami School of Education and Human Development, began working closely with Kristi House’s Project GOLD in the summer of 2014. After two years of engagement with the center, she initiated the “PhotoVoice Project” to serve as a research initiative that would allow providers to learn more about survivors’ experiences of childhood sexual exploitation and as a source of empowerment for local youth.
At the conclusion of the transformative project, youth were encouraged to channel their experiences into an advocacy initiative intended to address some of the issues that had been discussed. Noting that many of the participants had photographed local murals, the idea developed that youth might collaborate with an artist to create their own mural and raise consciousness surrounding the issue of child sex trafficking in the local community.
Della Heiman, founder of The Wynwood Yard, was immediately on board, along with artist Jenny Perez. It was the perfect combination, with The Wynwood Yard serving as a hub of culture, innovation, and food, and providing the area for the painting; and with Miami artist Jenny Perez, who saw it as an opportunity to provide the girls a method of expression, a means to initiate social change, and a healing process.
As a true collaborator, Jenny met with the young women multiple times, composing several drafts of the image and incorporating feedback from participants, many of whom are talented artists themselves. Jenny provided youth with a source of mentorship and empowerment, helping to cultivate their diverse ideas and incorporate them into a single, powerful image. The image is of a woman’s face with multiple colors displayed in her hair, intending to symbolize the experience and identity of each individual contributor.
Thank you to The Melissa Institute and the Children’s Movement of Florida for making this project possible.
Photos, interviews available upon request.