Barnside Mural

Story By Andrew Kieckhefer

Local News Published 07/22/2021 4:21PM, Last Updated 07/22/2021 7:12PM

CREATE Portage County launched a program last year called Paint the County, with the goal to provide work to local artists impacted by COVID-19. The program allows local artists to tell visual stories, including the history of women’s suffrage.

“As part of that project we also got some funding from the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission to paint murals that would celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment of women’s rights to vote,” said Greg Wright, executive director for CREATE Portage County.

Ho-Chunk-Ojibwe artist Christopher Sweet created a mural that was inspired by a poem by his cousin, Denise Sweet.

“His cousin wrote an original poem to go with his mural called the ‘Song for the Seven Sisters’. The Seven Sisters are Native American women that had a very influential role in helping people shape the women’s suffrage movement,” said Wright.

“Song for the Seven Sisters”
Hear my voice. It is my voice. I speak to your naked heart. – Native American Dream Song
Those that kept us true
to course, those that held
our strength, that led us
to stand as people of this land,

those that lean together like stalks
of corn against the fierce winds
of change without waver,
without compromise

with songs so simple–
melodies of Crane and Wolf
and sometimes Thunder,
songs deepened by somber memories,

songs echoing through the chambers
of every heart yearning to be heard
yearning for peace and justice–
They spoke to our naked hearts.

Even when hallowed halls are ablaze
and marble chambers collapse into dust,
even while statues tip and fall
They will know this beloved land

They will draw every breath
as though for the first time
delivering songs of courage and joy,
to a blue horizon of endless possibility.

Denise Sweet
January 26, 2021

The mural is on display at 9552 Hwy 54 in Amherst. Organizers say that they intend to leave the murals alone as long as the paint remains presentable, between 20-30 years.

“It’s about the message. This is one of my first large, one of my largest murals I’ve done,” Christopher Sweet said.

Officials say they will attempt to provide a notification to that will offer an audible version of the poem for drivers to listen to on their cellphones while passing by the display.