A new mural was recently completed by artist Nico Cathcart featuring Aurora Higgs, a lauded Black transgender activist and speaker in Richmond’s LGBTQ+ community. Started in March, Women’s History Month, the colorful, vibrant piece focuses on the connections between humans and nature, as well as highlighting the beauty and strength in our differences. Every visual element of the piece holds a metaphoric purpose. Among these elements, a variety of flowers were chosen for their colors as well as what they have symbolized in flower lore of the past: unity, love, pride, strength, perseverance, to name a few. Hidden within the floral colors are the trans pride colors. A north star is painted in blue on the top right corner — a nod to True North Yoga, who started this project — and surrounding Aurora is a galaxy of stars, which double as fireflies as a nod to Buffalo Firefly, whose opening prompted the completion.
Cathcart explained her intentions for the mural, saying, “Part of being an ally in my line of work is allowing the models’ experiences to shine. I truly hope any viewer of the piece can take the time to look up and learn from Aurora, who can tell her story and experiences far better than I ever could. I am hoping the piece honors the work that Aurora is constantly doing on behalf of Richmond’s LGBTQIA+ community. She is truly a city treasure.”
Cathcart also drew connections between the mural and the wider struggle the trans community faces within the city. “I also hope the mural can start the process of normalizing positive representations of trans people to the city’s larger population,” she said. “As the mother of a trans kid, I want to see this city become a safe, beautiful place to live your truth in, whomever you are. I hope this mural is a step in that direction, and pushes people to realize how much we need to protect our trans population in light of recent heightened persecution.”
This is believed to be the first trans woman represented in a mural in Richmond. “As a Black trans femme in the South, my community is hyper vulnerable to institutional and cultural oppression, erasure, violence, and death. So to have a long-standing imprint on the city that I’ve given so much to feels invulnerable,” Higgs said. “I want other trans/NB people of color to see this and feel seen. I want other artists and communities to follow suit, and honor others who represent the future of the community. In the South we have so many problematic monuments that honor an oppressive past, so for me a quick and easy solution (one of many) is honoring those that represent a liberative future for all. I want trans femmes in Richmond, in particular, to see themselves in the mural and feel safe and empowered. I want others outside my community to see it and remember that we exist and deserve (a million times over) to be seen. To be acknowledged. To be valued.”
Cathcart has been blown away by the neighborhood’s response. “I was so excited to see the reactions of the community,” she said. “In the end, the piece was funded by the community itself, and the whole neighborhood embraced the process. Bellevue is a diverse area, and it melts my heart to hear people say that they felt seen when looking at the mural, or that they were proud to live in the neighborhood it was being painted in.”
This long-planned project was made possible by generous donations from Bellevue residents and the Bellevue Civic Association, and was commissioned by Aliza Sterling, co-owner of True North Yoga & Wellness, and Mary-Lynne Williams, owner of Buffalo Firefly.
The official unveiling of the mural will be during Bellevue’s Porchella on April 23rd, and will coincide with the opening of Buffalo Firefly, which will take place with an open house between 5 and 8pm at the mural’s location, 4025 MacArthur Ave. While enjoying the music at Porchella, residents can and should pop by to see this new Northside addition.