Girl Noticed

Cincinnati artist Lori Pratico plans to paint wall murals in each state to empower women

By Jana Soeldner Danger

Sometimes just getting noticed can make an enormous difference in someone’s life. And sometimes a wall can be a way to bring others in rather than shut them out. Those are the messages behind a series of murals by Lori Pratico, a 49-year-old artist based in Fort Lauderdale.

The wall-sized pictures focus on the accomplishments of girls and women from around the country who, Lori believes, deserve to be seen. “All girls and women have value,” Lori said. “If we recognize that, it can change their lives and the lives of those around them.”

Her goal is to do at least one mural in each of the 50 states, and so far, she’s completed 10. Each one is finished in just three days, and they are drawn in charcoal, not paint. “The message is that there’s a window of time to recognize the girl before the picture is diminished and replaced by something else,” Lori said.

The Beginning
The first mural in the series, completed while Lori was an artist in residence in Cincinnati, featured a woman who had opened a refugee center called Heartfelt Tidbits, along with the woman’s high school daughter who volunteers there. “It gives the refugees a place to learn skills, do arts and crafts, and get together with other people like themselves in a positive environment,” Lori said. “It gives them a sense of community.”

She completed another mural in Lincoln, Nebraska, designed to provoke thought about the current refugee crisis. It juxtaposes the situations of two different women: One is a recent arrival from Syria, struggling to learn English and adjust to a community that is new and strange to her. The other is a Vietnamese woman who came to the city with nothing in the early 1970s. “Today, she owns a business and all of her kids have college degrees,” Lori said. The tagline: Love thy neighbor.

Workshops And Lectures
When she creates a mural, Lori often does a workshop or lecture that deals with the issue the mural portrays. That was the case when a mother nominated her 13-year-old daughter who is on the autism spectrum. It was the girl herself, however, who wrote to Lori. Her letter didn’t mention her condition. “Instead, she talked about being bullied because she was different and couldn’t change that,” Lori said.

After the girl’s mural was completed, Lori spoke to 150 middle-school girls about bullying and the importance of empathy toward others who are different from themselves.

Inspiration From A Film
Inspiration for the project came after Lori attended a screening at Gallery 2014 in Hollywood, Florida, of “Girl Rising.” The film tells the stories of several girls from developing countries who overcame tremendous difficulties to pursue their educations and dreams. One of the stories struck a particular chord with Lori. “It was a little girl in Haiti walking through rubble after the 2010 earthquake,” Lori recalled. “She said that because she had survived all of that, she must be supposed to do more than society’s expectations.”

Lori knows firsthand about needing to exceed expectations to find your dreams, as well as how being noticed can change a life. Raised in a lower income neighborhood in Philadelphia, she was expected to grow up, find a man, get married, and have children. “But there was an art teacher who made me realize there was more to me than what was expected of me,” Lori said. “She nominated me for the National Honor Society. She recognized me as a human being, and she was the first one to do it.”

Becoming An Artist
“I wanted to be an artist,” Lori said.

The route to achieving that goal did not include college or art school. After getting married at 19, she had twins and stayed home for four years with them. By then, she wanted to get out into the work world, and began her artistic career as a billboard painter. “I walked into a sign shop with a couple of brushes, and the guy there pointed to something and said, ‘paint that!’ I did, and he told me to come back the next day.”

Her mural project, however, is where her heart is. “I want to send the message that you don’t have to be the perfect size or shape or fit into the unrealistic molds women are put into,” she said. “No matter what your role is in society, you have value just the way you are.”

Girl Noticed