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High school students on Wednesday visited a new exhibit celebrating the contributions of female pioneers, while getting advice from one: Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski.
"Get uncomfortable," Biskupski told more than 100 students from Salt Lake and Granite school districts at a luncheon gathering at The Leonardo, part of an event coinciding with the unveiling of a mural depicting 156 groundbreaking women from history, politics, art, literature and science.
Biskupski described the moment that spurred her into politics: sitting on her couch in 1994, seeing news reports of students at East High School battling the administration to form a gay-straight club.
"I wondered why I was sitting on my couch," the mayor told the students. "What was I waiting for? … I got off my couch, and I never went back."
Biskupski talked about her time as the only openly gay member of the Utah Legislature and the alienation she felt from other lawmakers. "I had colleagues who wouldn't look me in the eye or shake my hand," she said. "I was uncomfortable, and so were they. That uncomfortableness is what drives me."
The luncheon marked "National 50/50 Day," an event organized around filmmaker Tiffany Shlain's documentary "50/50: Rethinking the Past, Present and Future of Women in Power," which was broadcast in one of The Leonardo's galleries. The documentary examines gender imbalance in the corridors of power over the past 10,000 years.
The Leonardo used the occasion to unveil "Woman/Women," which incorporates Shlain's documentary and "Work in Progress," the latest iteration of an ongoing mural project led by Salt Lake City artist Jann Haworth and her daughter, collage artist Liberty Blake.
Using a pastiche of faces similar to Haworth's most famous work, the album cover of The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," the mural juxtaposes women from different fields. One grouping, for example, places Princess Diana next to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the screen siren and inventor Hedy Lamarr, the labor organizer Mother Jones and the World War I spy Mata Hari.
The Leonardo's exhibit (visittheleonardo.org for details) features nine printed panels of the mural, the originals for which are on display at the Brigham Young University Museum of Art through September. Haworth expects more panels to be added wherever the mural is displayed, so that it will never be finished.