The Golden Life  Mural Project (2024)

Co-created by Armisey Smith and Rachel Fawn Alban

In collaboration with Project For Empty Space and the City of Newark’s Division of Arts and Culture,

Supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies Asphalt Art Initiative.

The Golden Life highlights 14 women, from youth to elders, who live or work in the neighborhoods near the intersection. Each portrait, presented as a large-scale black and white photograph with a radiant gold nimbus, illuminates the greatness of Newark women and their essential, multifaceted roles. Floods of color and weaving lines share the story of our collective vibrancy and linked energy- our sisterhood. In addition to the mural, an audio component will be presented that shares the voices of participating femme identified Newark voices.

Located at the intersection of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and the Interstate 280 off-ramp, Newark, NJ

Artists Armisey Smith and Rachel Fawn Alban with portrait of Kiymora Smith. Photo by Randy Hayes Harris

Participant Adele Rae Hayes Harris jumps in front of her portrait in the new mural 

Participant Kiymora Smith checking out her portrait.

“This public art cuts through the sounds of our city and speaks clearer than any sidewalk conversation through its profound, shared experience...It unifies us around our awareness of how Newark’s women and girls propel the whole city into a place of peace, power, and prosperity. It’s fitting that these larger-than-life collages were crafted in artmaking workshops by Newark’s larger-than-life women and girls, who themselves are a living collage of Newark’s spirit.”

- Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka

“Joyful stories of women and girls of color are too often left untold and unseen due to systemic racism and other inequalities in our society. As artists, we want to reinforce women's and girls' strength, beauty, and purpose through the public lens, where we can effectuate change via public art. The Golden Life mural pays homage by portraying larger-than-life portraits crowned with a gold nimbus honoring each person's radiant individuality. The painted elements of the mural offer various blues, symbolic of serenity, stability, inspiration, and wisdom, amplified with the intensity of the photos. The use of blue also symbolizes the vastness of the sky and the richness of the ocean, both associated with the power of womanhood. The lines in each blue motif represent time and the linear connections of sisterhood and the community. Honoring their individual stories, combined with the interconnectivity of the elemental power of womanhood, is the impetus of the collaborative creation of the “The Golden Life” mural.”

- Armisey Smith and Rachel Fawn Alban

Completion images above and behind-the-scenes progress photos below.

The Golden Life Workshop 

As part of the process to develop our mural, Armisey and I hosted a free artmaking workshop on April 20, 2023, from 6-8PM at Centennial Hall, The Newark Public Library that invited women and girls of all ages. We presented our public arts project including plans for the mural, and offered opportunities for participants to create artwork, write poetry, and have their portrait taken by me. Some of the portraits have been integrated into the mural, and audio component will be presented that shares the voices of participants reading their poetry.  

“Project For Empty Space has always been a fierce advocate for femme narratives in public space, and this mural is a testament to that. We will continue to advocate for those without a voice through the arts and various artist-led projects. We are only just getting started.” 

- Jasmine Wahi and Rebecca Jampol, the Co-Founders of Project for Empty Space.

The Golden Life Mural was completed in late January 2024. The project joins a series of Project for Empty Space-led murals that center female visibility and vigor.

Artist & Design support: Jo-El Lopez, Mark Hartmann, and Sophia Loren Sanchez
Community engagement support: Angel Bellaran, Kween Moore, Mouna Moussa, and Tiffany Salas
Fabrication: Mural Provisions 
Installation team: Randy Hayes Harris, Ronaldo Montan, Luis Lopez, Ralph Jungo, Diego Molina

Above Images: Rachel Fawn Alban

More info can be found HERE.

Images of the mural and audio can be found HERE.

Using Format