A new mural painted by a student at Winona Senior High School (WSHS) will encourage those who look at it to “not be ashamed of who they are.”
The acrylic painting, done by WSHS junior Julia Kopperud, features Marsha P. Johnson, a prominent figure in the Stonewall uprising of 1969. She was a transgender African-American activist and played a significant role in the LGBTQ+ community in the 1960s and 1970s. In the painting, Johnson is set against a brick wall, which pays tribute to the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in which the Stonewell riots first began. The mural also features a quote from Johnson’s close friend and fellow activist Sylvia Rivera: “We have to be visible. We should not be ashamed of who we are.”
“I made this piece in an effort to support the voices of those who are unheard,” Kopperud said in an artist statement. “To encourage people to step out of the shadows and use their voices to spark the changes they want to see in the world. In the brainstorming process of this mural I realized that I had an opportunity to do just that.”
While Kopperud will be credited as the artist, the final product was a group effort. Kopperud asked fellow members of the WSHS Gay Straight Alliance for their ideas. She also had the members paint their hands with the colors of different pride flags and placed them on the canvas.
“I truly enjoyed the process of creating this mural, and I’m incredibly thankful to all of those who had a part in it,” Kopperud said. “I hope this painting inspires people to step out of their comfort zone and embrace their individuality.”
The mural was unveiled Friday morning and will be placed in the commons area of the high school. WSHS Principal Mark Anderson said other students have approached him about contributing other artwork celebrating their culture and identity and those projects are nearing completion.
Earlier this school year, WSHS student Chloe Porter painted a new “We Are Winona” mural as part of an independent study project.
The WSHS GSA started in January of 2019. The goal since the beginning was to create awareness, advocacy and alliance for the LGBTQ+ community. GSA members not only want to educate their fellow students, they want to create a safe space for them.