Street artist installs larger-than-life portraits of women-identified students on University of Michigan’s campus

Collection titled “To Be Heard”

A portrait installed on a campus building at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor as part of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh's public exhibition titled "To Be Heard." (Tatyana Fazlalizadeh | University of Michigan)

ANN ARBOR – New York-based street artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh has installed several larger-than-life portraits on the facades of campus buildings at the University of Michigan of Black, brown, queer and women-identified students.

Brooklyn’s Fazlalizadeh is an artist in residence at the U-M Institute for the Humanities. She created “To Be Heard” to explore identity on the school’s campus and encourage understanding of the numerous gender and racial experiences of the school’s diverse student base through art.

The exhibition will be on view through mid-October.

Fazlalizadeh cemented her name nationally for her previous collection “Stop Telling Women to Smile,” a project installed in cities around the world featuring faces of women addressing offenders of gender-based street harassment directly through captions under their faces. The work was profiled on NPR, in the New York Times, The New Yorker and Time.

A portrait installed on a campus building at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor as part of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh's public exhibition titled "To Be Heard." (Tatyana Fazlalizadeh | University of Michigan)

At U-M, she will lead discussions in the classroom with students that will touch on topics of gender, race, experiences at U-M and their personal opinions. She is particularly interested in the experience of walking through campus, pressures students feel in the classroom and their personal stories of how they got to U-M.

“My work is meant to provide space for voices that need to be heard, so I want those voices to be loud and I want them to be honest,” Fazlalizadeh said in a release. “I want them to be very bold and very brave.”

A cutout of a University of Michigan student as part of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh's public exhibition titled "To Be Heard" is seen on Central Campus. (Tatyana Fazlalizadeh | University of Michigan)

She said the temporary nature of her work amplifies its message of urgency and its meaning.

“We have these faces and words we are amplifying, but it won’t be up forever, so once you see this, what do you do with it?” she said in a release. “Do you let it go away, as the work comes down, or do you take their message with you into your lives, like the lives and experiences of the art’s subjects continue to unfold and develop.”

A cutout of a University of Michigan student as part of New York-based artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh's public exhibition titled "To Be Heard." (Tatyana Fazlalizadeh | University of Michigan)

“Fazlalizadeh’s work is very much about the students being heard and occupying institutional spaces,” curator at the Institute for the Humanities Gallery Amanda Krugliak said in a release. “It isn’t static. The project has built into it space for discourse, for dissent, for constructive critique and future visions.

“It continues to challenge archaic ideas as to who we should honor in public spaces with monuments or buildings, and to publicly present the thoughts and voices of people whose voices have historically been overlooked.”

So, where can you find the murals?

They adorn the facades of the following campus buildings:

  • Modern Languages Building
  • Shapiro Undergraduate Library
  • Trotter Multicultural Center
Portraits of women-identified students are on view on campus as part of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh's public exhibition titled "To Be Heard." (Tatyana Fazlalizadeh | University of Michigan)

Cutouts of lifesize drawings can also be seen throughout the Central Campus grounds.

“Each cutout and each installation on each building has the potential to be resonant in a different way and change the very landscape on campus and the way we see things,” Krugliak said in a release.

The artist currently has another multimedia installation on Black womanhood titled “Pressed Against My Own Glass” on display at the Humanities Gallery. It will be on view through Oct. 21.

The U-M Humanities Gallery is located at 202 S. Thayer St.


About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.