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Release Date: 
Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Our Strategic Expasion VISTA focused on the Opioid Epidemic, Hari, explains as I walked down 19th St. NW on my first day of work at the NLADA office, I passed by the mural “Women Who Will” and immediately loved it. The absolutely huge and bright and unapologetic burst of color, the pop art style, seemingly random location, and its juxtaposition against the surrounding grey concrete are just so fun to me. The mural also seemed familiar – after a little digging, I found that it was a take on the popular photograph “Lunch atop a Skyscraper” of steelworkers taken in 1932 during the construction of 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

“Lunch atop a Skyscraper” has a mixed history. On one hand, it was a publicity stunt -- a staged photo to publicize the construction of the Rockefeller Center during the great depression, when jobs were scarce and cheap labor from immigrant workers was used to fuel Manhattan’s skyscraper boom. On the other hand, the photo is just beautiful and fun, depicting immigrant steelworkers – a group that doesn’t generally get to be in the limelight – literally on top of the world, enjoying some downtime at lunch with reckless abandon, all against the striking background of Manhattan below.

I walk by “Women Who Will” everyday going to and coming back from work, and it always lifts my spirits. The gender reversal is interesting – just as the original photograph put the spotlight on the immigrant steelworkers who might otherwise be absent from the artistic or cultural space, this mural puts a group of women in the spotlight who historically have been underrepresented in public life. One of my favorite parts of the mural is that it is so big – I love seeing these women taking up so much space. Its inspiring to see this literally vibrant group of women sitting so high up with DC far below them, way above that glass ceiling, free to be casual and reckless and fearless together.