Harriet Miller and Monica Wehrle were greeted with a standing ovation Thursday as they spoke at the dedication for the new Faces of the Fort mural at the Edsall House Apartments.
The mural, created by local artist Lyndy Bazile, depicts the community advocates, who were instrumental in establishing the Women’s Bureau in 1977; creating Run Jane Run, a multisport event for adult amateur female athletes; and participating in the 2014 ACLU lawsuit advocating for marriage equality in Indiana.
“We stand in solidarity with thousands of women throughout Fort Wayne’s history who also fought for justice,” Wehrle said. “We think that we are part of a brilliant and powerful system for social justice.”
She suggested the five murals’ common thread is that they all represent citizens who are underrepresented in everyday experiences.
Réna Bradley, Faces of the Fort committee chairwoman, began Thursday’s dedication ceremony. Bradley explained the Fort Wayne Public Art Commission and the Faces of the Fort project.
“Over 2,000 Fort Wayne residents told us that they wanted to see art that reflects the diversity, history and culture of our city’s residents,” Bradley said.
The goal of the five large murals is to showcase the city’s history and heritage, she said. Each of the artworks has the theme: Hometown Heroes.
The newest mural is the last in the series. The other murals are at 520 W. Jefferson Blvd., 1514 St. Joseph Blvd., 4335 S. Anthony Blvd. and 1818 Bluffton Road.
Each mural portrays people who have made a profound impact in Fort Wayne, Bradley said.
“That way, each year is an opportunity for our community members to not only become more aware of the way that the community is growing, developing and changing,” Bradley said, “but also how those people are shaping that change and influencing social movements throughout our nation.”
Mayor Tom Henry said Fort Wayne continues to be the “talk of the town” because of how the city has embraced the arts, which he believes is a good foundation for generations to come.
“(Art) will undoubtedly continue to not only be an asset to our community, but truly something that we can say makes Fort Wayne what it is,” he said.
John Ehrhardt, vice president at Gene B. Glick Co., also spoke at the dedication ceremony. The company owns the Edsall House Apartments at 310 W. Berry St., where the mural is displayed.
Ehrhardt called the artwork stunning and thanked Miller and Wehrle for their dedication to Fort Wayne.
Miller and Wehrle thanked the Public Arts Commission and Lyndy Bazile for their work on the mural.
“In Fort Wayne – in addition to going to a museum – you can walk our streets and see amazing work of local, national and international artists right here in our own city,” Miller said.
Miller and Wehrle said their story reflects Fort Wayne, a city they believe brings artists together with activists to validate their commitment to social justice.
“Over the past 40 years, Monica and I have been committed to activism on behalf of women’s rights,” Miller said. “We’ve always been hopeful, and as this mural shows, we’ve been joyful, and we’ve had fun in the process.”
Although they have spent 40 years fighting for women’s rights, the women believe the fight is far from over.
“This mural represents our activist journey to achieve full equality and representation, but work remains to be done,” Miller said. “So we invite everyone to do your part, any way you choose. Speak up, use your voices, join with those who share your values for justice.”