BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – A new mural in the Crestwood neighborhood has a message designed to inspire young girls, and it’s already achieving that goal.
Girls Inc. revealed the mural two weeks ago along the concrete wall that sits just inside its entrance. Everyone who passes by will see its bright colors and big words: “Inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, bold.”
Those words, painted by Birmingham artist Merrilee Challiss, sum up the mission of Girls Inc., an organization that offers programs to help girls develop confidence, independence and good life skills. Challis and her assistants spent three weeks painting it.
“I just was thinking about girls that age when they’re transforming, they’re becoming something other,” she said. “They’re like butterflies, right, so they’re in their cocoons and they’re changing. And so I painted them in that way that they’re not quite fixed yet, they’re still becoming something other.”
Challiss used pictures and information from Girls Inc. as inspiration for the mural. It transformed a blank concrete wall into a colorful painting. The idea came from a representative of Fast Signs, who Girls Inc. hired to work on signage as the organization prepares to host the National Girls Inc. Conference in 2020.
“Honestly I never noticed the wall,” Karen Griner, development director for Girls Inc. of Central Alabama, said. “It was covered in vines and dirt and grime. And we thought, ‘hey, that’d be great.’ So he connected us with Merrilee. And we knew right away we wanted to work with her.”
After three weeks of work, Challiss and her assistants had completed it. It features depictions of some of the girls involved in their programs, and some girls’ hand prints are part of the painting. And the message, painted in large letters, has already struck a chord with some of the girls at the organization’s summer camp.
“It shows how girls can be stronger,” 10-year-old Sydnee Wilder said. “Because you know boys have the best jobs, most best-paying jobs And girls don’t easily get that respect that we need.”
For eight-year-old Jourdan Price, the mural represents encouragement.
“They want us girls to know that we can do the same things that everybody can do,” she said.
It’s a lesson in good life skills for nine-year-old Navielle Woods.
“Be yourself.” she said. “Be a leader not a follower, and don’t let anybody tell you what you can or can’t do.”