Liberty Station mural depicts ‘Women Who Persisted’

"Waves of Feminism" by artist Katie Ruiz is on the walls outside the Women's Museum of California at Liberty Station.
The “Waves of Feminism” mural by artist Katie Ruiz is on the walls outside the Women’s Museum of California at Liberty Station.

Point Loma’s Liberty Station is known as a cultural mecca for local artists and art lovers, filled with various installations and exhibits.

Recently, one such exhibit was installed on the walls outside the Women’s Museum of California depicting 100 years of the women’s movement.

Installed in January with plans for it to be up at least a year, “Waves of Feminism: Women Who Persisted” by local artist Katie Ruiz was inspired by women who might be lesser-known figures in the feminist movement and the impact those women made.

“It was an intimidating project,” said Ruiz, who was helped with the project by museum curator Sue Gonda and artistic director Duane McGregor. “It was really a team effort.”

It was an effort through which she says she learned a lot about her subjects.

“I’m a feminist, but I’ve never taken a class on feminism, so I didn’t have the history of knowledge that these women brought,” she said.

Katie Ruiz's mural at Liberty Station consists of three separate large pieces depicting the various waves of feminism.
Katie Ruiz’s mural at Liberty Station consists of three separate large pieces depicting the various waves of feminism.

The exhibit consists of three separate large art pieces depicting the various waves of feminism.

The first wave focuses on pioneers of the movement, such as Ida B. Wells, a prominent journalist; Alice Paul, a noted suffragist; Dr. Charlotte Baker, San Diego’s first female doctor; and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a leader in the suffrage movement.

The second wave focuses on the 1950s through 1980s and portrays women such as artist Judy Baca, author Betty Friedan, politician Shirley Chisholm and Wilma Mankiller, the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation.

The third wave depicts more modern figures such as writer Rebecca Walker, educator Gloria Anzaldúa, playwright Eve Ensler and activist Janet Mock.

Significant quotes also are highlighted on the murals.

“I felt like I learned so much as I was making [the pieces],” Ruiz said. “I’m an educator myself, so I love to research. So I just watched YouTube videos on the women the whole time I was painting them and I really got to know them personally — well, not personally, but in my head. [I] painted their portraits as I was hearing their speeches or talks, so that was really neat.”

She hopes others also will learn something from the art. Viewers can scan a QR code on the exhibit and be taken to audio and video recordings of the subjects.

Felicia Shaw, executive director of the Women’s Museum, said the mural is especially significant right now.

“The election of Kamala Harris as our first female vice president, first African American, first [South] Asian — what a moment in history,” Shaw said. “We always say in the women’s movement that this is our time, but truly, the time is now for women, particularly, to step into leadership roles and we’re demonstrating that. We want this mural to be our statement about how far we’ve come. We didn’t just start yesterday. We’ve been at it for 100 years. And so ‘Waves of Feminism’ is about celebrating 100 years of the feminist movement and where we are and where we’re going to go.”

She added that seeing people interact with the murals — especially young girls — makes her smile.

“They stand there and they read it and they look at it and they see women who look like them — because we were really intentional about selecting women from diverse racial backgrounds as well, so it’s not all the people you would normally see, like Susan B. Anthony and stuff like that. There are women there like Ida B. Wells or Rebecca Walker,” Shaw said.

The installation was made possible through the Arts District Collaborative Grant presented by the NTC Foundation. The grant encourages tenants of Liberty Station to collaborate with other tenants on artistic endeavors. The “Waves of Feminism” grant totaled $4,000, said Lisa Johnson, president and chief executive of the NTC Foundation.

Johnson described the importance of the “Waves of Feminism” mural in light of the challenges facing the world.

“I think it’s always important, but particularly right now,” she said. “People need inspiration. A lot of the things that are happening in our community and in our world, we need to be grounded and reminded of history — that we have gone through some really challenging times historically and we’ve come out stronger and better as a society and as a community.”

“Art is a catalyst,” Johnson added. “It makes people think, it inspires people. Being reminded that we have gone through some really tough times in our history and we’ve come out stronger on the other side is a particularly important and powerful message now. As we’re coming out of this pandemic and all the struggles that we’re having, I think being reminded is a powerful message. History, if we don’t remember it, can repeat itself.”

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