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Stop Telling Women to Smile, New Downtown Mural Says

By David Matthews | September 10, 2015 4:19pm
 The piece by Brooklyn artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh depicts 24 or 25 women she photographed.
The piece by Brooklyn artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh depicts 24 or 25 women she photographed.
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DNAinfo/David Matthews

DOWNTOWN — The newest mural along the Wabash Arts Corridor strives to show the pervasiveness of street harassment against women.

"Stop Telling Women to Smile" went up Saturday on Wabash between 8th and 9th streets. Made by Brooklyn artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, it shows the faces of 25 young women who say they've been catcalled or otherwise harassed while walking outside.

"Catcalls, being sexually objectified aggressively by men on the street ... it's not just my experience but [the experience of] women across the country," said Fazlalizadeh, 29.

The piece is on a west-facing wall of a parking garage. [DNAinfo/David Matthews]

The mural is the latest installment in a three-year project by Fazlalizadeh, who has put up similar murals in Baltimore, Los Angeles and Oakland, Calif. She made the piece by photographing young women, including some students she met at Columbia College Chicago, printing out large versions of her drawings, and pasting them to the wall. 

Though the comment may seem innocuous to some, Fazlalizadeh and others have said that telling women to smile is sexist: It is rare for strangers to ask men to smile, and some women feel the comment is an insidious attempt to control their emotions or the way they look.

Mark Kelly, vice president of student success at Columbia College, said the piece is the 15th or 16th work along the new Wabash Arts Corridor, which stretches roughly from Jackson Boulevard to Roosevelt Road. Next month a French artist named Kashink will do a piece on the north wall of the 8th Street parking garage.

Wabash, a Downtown street that historically lacked the glitz of neighboring Michigan Avenue and State Street, is now clearly "emerging as a very important place for public and street art," Kelly said. A walk-through of the corridor will be held Oct. 23. 

Fazlalizadeh said she's next taking her mural to Paris. Apparently her work isn't done: A reporter recently drew the ire of Serena Williams when he asked the tennis star why she wasn't smiling

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