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Allston mural pays homage to Rita Hester

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Allston mural pays homage to Rita Hester
Design for “Rita’s Spotlight” mural by Rixy. COURTESY PHOTO

Last month, local artist Rixy was commissioned to paint a mural in Allston in honor of Rita Hester, a Black transgender woman and beloved community member whose 1998 murder in Allston sparked the creation of the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Created in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Arts & Culture, the Boston Art Commission and Street Theory, “Rita’s Spotlight” features a portrait of the glamorous icon amid the colors of the trans flag.

“This mural is a wonderful way to acknowledge the contributions of Rita Hester and Boston’s LGBTQIA+ community as a whole,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “Whether it’s youth walking by on their way to school, or residents visiting local businesses in the area, we’re confident that this mural will continue to inspire and uplift the surrounding community for years to come.”

Hester was a vibrant presence in the community for many years, known for her kindness and love of entertaining. When she died, the community began searching for a way to honor the local legend. Trans activist Gwendolyn Ann Smith launched the Boston Transgender Day of Remembrance as a vigil dedicated to Hester and others who had died of anti-trans violence. 

Rixy worked closely with the LGBTQIA+ community to make sure the mural paid homage to Hester in the best way possible. “I love the inclusion of her own poem in the background and the use of tonal roses,” says Blue Nguyen, a member of the community working group for the mural project. “I appreciate the trans pride flag colors inclusion and how they are weaved into the mural.”

The mural is located at 506 Cambridge St.., next to the Jackson/Mann K-8 school. Hester had a rich history here in the Union Square neighborhood of Allston. The community working group provided input on the location for the mural and participated in selecting Rixy as the artist for the piece.

As part of this project, the city of Boston supported the Rita Hester Scholarship Fund organized by the Transgender Emergency Fund of Massachusetts. The scholarship fund will award $2,500 to four low-income Black transgender women pursuing a post-secondary degree, certificate or accreditation. In addition, $1,000 will go to three low-income transgender women of any race pursuing the same. In this way, the powerful artistic homage to Hester is backed by fundraising that can make an immediate and permanent impact on quality of life for transgender people.

“It’s part of the process to think of others’ reflections: how Rita will so vibrantly be seen like this, and how others, especially her loved ones, always see her,” said Rixy. “I feel like a handy tool in making a visual of these perspectives.”

Allston, LGBTQIA+, mural