Subscribe
The Chatter

Henrietta Lacks Mural Takes Shape

Lacks’ granddaughter and Philadelphia-based art studio to work together on the project.

By Gabriella Souza | April 19, 2017, 12:31 pm

-Courtesy of the Lacks Family
The Chatter

Henrietta Lacks Mural Takes Shape

Lacks’ granddaughter and Philadelphia-based art studio to work together on the project.

By Gabriella Souza | April 19, 2017, 12:31 pm

-Courtesy of the Lacks Family

Get Baltimore Daily.

Sign up today and you'll get our latest stories delivered straight to your inbox every weekday afternoon.

The story of Henrietta Lacks has resonated with people around the world—through an award-winning book by author Rebecca Skloot and most recently, through a movie produced by and starring Oprah Winfrey that premieres this Sunday on HBO.

Now, that story will be immortalized further through a mural that Lacks’ granddaughter, Jeri Lacks Whye, and a Philadelphia-based art studio are working together to bring to life. They’ve also enlisted The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and see the process of creating the mural as a way to start conversations about the tensions between the storied medical institution and the surrounding community.   

“Jeri always says, ‘I just want people to know my grandma,’” says Lizzie Kripke, co-principal artist at Meg Saligman Studio. “Her grandmother is someone who’s a part of all of us now, in a literal way if we’ve had a polio vaccine.”

On January 29, 1951, Hopkins doctors took a biopsy from Henrietta Lacks—wife of a Bethlehem Steel worker—who had an aggressive form of cervical cancer. Though she passed away eight months later, the tissue, used by researchers without her consent, went on to establish the cell line HeLa—the first immortal human cells ever grown in a culture, which have been invaluable to medicine ever since. 

“There’s a lot of beauty in the science and in her life and family, along with the darker side,” Kripke says. “If we can cast things in a positive light, and acknowledge what’s gone wrong but also celebrate what’s gone right, I think that’s a different way to present this.”

She and the Lacks family are still deciding the site for the mural, and Kripke expects that the bulk of the work will take place next year.

“We’ll feature Henrietta Lacks, but it’s not going to be just a picture that memorializes her,” she says. “It’s going to pull lots of elements from the area as well as her life and story.”

The process of designing the mural will include getting Henrietta Lacks’ family, community members, and Hopkins doctors and officials in the same room for discussion.

“We can’t overstate what the art will do, as this story touches on so many interconnected issues,” Kripke says. “But I do think art is effective in getting the ball rolling and shifting culture in one way or another.”




You May Also Like


Arts District

Hamilton Slated to Make its Baltimore Premiere

Hippodrome Theatre’s upcoming season showcases a stunning lineup of productions old and new.

Arts District

Catching Up with Kariz Marcel of 92Q Fame

The DJ and producer talks about his nonprofit that combines math and music.

Arts & Culture

Music Reviews: January 2018

The latest from F City and ​Legends of Et cetera.


Arts & Culture

Deborah Hazlett Celebrates 20th Season at Everyman Theatre

The resident actress discusses her latest play "Long Day’s Journey into Night."

MaxSpace

Review: Fifty Shades Freed

Finally, we are freed of this franchise.

Arts District

Amy Sherald Unveils Portrait of Michelle Obama

The Baltimore artist was celebrated this morning at a ceremony in Washington D.C.

Get Baltimore Daily.

Sign up today and you'll get our latest stories delivered straight to your inbox every weekday afternoon.

Connect With Us

Most Read


Costume Design in Black Panther Inspires Local Movie Goers: From regal to traditional African attire, fashionable fans showed up for opening weekend.

How To Create An At-Home Gym in Your Small Space: Take a look inside these rowhouse fitness spaces for some tips and tricks.

The Land of Kush Opening Second Location in East Baltimore This Fall: Owners talk veganism, creativity, and building a new restaurant from scratch.

The Gun Trace Task Force Case Challenges Ability to Police in Baltimore: Local legal expert explains what needs to be done to prevent further corruption.

Giada De Laurentiis Talks About Opening New Horseshoe Casino Restaurant : The celebrity chef takes us on a tour of her trattoria, GDL Italian, opening in April.