Mural artist shines a light on Dorchester women

By P. Ryan Anthony, Dorchester Banner
Posted 7/13/22

When the Cambridge Community Arts Foundation put out a call for artists to submit sketches for their new Dorchester Women’s Mural in Cambridge, it was wintertime, during one of the COVID …

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Mural artist shines a light on Dorchester women

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When the Cambridge Community Arts Foundation put out a call for artists to submit sketches for their new Dorchester Women’s Mural in Cambridge, it was wintertime, during one of the COVID lockdowns.

Work was slow for Bridget Cimino, and she had a lot of time to work on a sketch.

“I love doing portraits in general, and I really am interested in the subject matter of accomplished women,” she said, “so I think it was the perfect storm of subject matter and time.”

Cimino researched everyone who was to be included in the mural — 12 remarkable women based at some time in Dorchester County. Mostly finding images where the subject was looking straight into the camera (or at the artist), she tried to vary that where she could for more visual interest.

For example, she could have put Sara A. Joyner in her admiral’s uniform, but she thought the fighter pilot looked much cooler in her flight suit.

Out of 17 artist submissions, Cimino’s was the one chosen by the mural selection committee because she included every person mentioned in the initial proposal, it was bright and vibrant, and she actually painted her sketch rather than create a computer-generated sample.

“I knew this was going to be a big one,” she said. “That’s kind of why I put a lot of effort into it. Because, whenever you paint a famous person, people are going to be really into that, you know?”

The Dorchester Women’s Mural, which now stands on a wall next to 518 Poplar St. in Cambridge, was the sort of project Baltimore native Cimino had been working up to during a career that began at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

During the economic downtown of 2009, she found herself unemployed and bored and decided to move to Los Angeles, where she had to hustle all the time just to afford her “crappy apartment.” This forced her to work hard and make opportunities happen rather than wait for jobs to come to her. That’s when she painted her first two murals.

Eventually, she returned to Baltimore, where she has a huge studio in an old factory and managed to get 12 more murals under her belt.

There were a few changes to her early plan for the Cambridge project. For example, she started to present Yogananda Pittman, former acting chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, in her private’s uniform until a relative said it would be better to paint her in her captain’s uniform.

Also Cimino, who usually puts flowers into her work, had included zinnias and other such flowers in her sketch, but then the committee suggested that she use native Maryland flowers instead.

When the time came to create the actual mural, Cimino started by having her boyfriend, a former contractor, spray the wall with two layers of masonry primer.

Next, she laid out a grid, where each square equaled 1-square-foot, and then she used a level to make tick marks along the wall. After that, she followed the grid on her sketch to turn her planned art into a bigger-than-life form, drawing the whole thing out.

Then she had a crew of two women help with “blocking in,” coloring all the shapes with flat paint. On Volunteer Day, people from the community filled in the flowers and other things on the lower part of the wall. Finally, Cimino painted all the details, such as folds and shading.

The mural features a diverse group of women, including five African Americans. Cimino said that was always the goal. “It was very important to the committee that it reflect the diversity of Cambridge and Dorchester in general, so that was always a consideration from the very beginning.”

The artist has enjoyed meeting people who knew the women in the piece, including relatives and even the subjects themselves. Former Cambridge Mayor Victoria Jackson Stanley and the family of Dr. Lida Meredith told her how happy they were with it.

In the end, Cimino hopes that people who look at her impressive new work take away from it that some amazing people have come out of Dorchester County and especially such small communities as Cambridge.

“I think that’s the story of America in general, that it’s a quilt with patches of bigger and smaller sizes and each one is just as important to the integrity of the whole thing,” she said. “More attention should be paid to the amazing women in this country, and I’m glad that more light is being shone on them, because they spent a lot of time in the dark.”

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