Residents featured in portrait exhibit at Mattapan library

An opening reception for a new exhibit of portraits and stories of Mattapan residents was held June 14 at the public library branch on Blue Hill Avenue. The “Real People, Real Stories: Mattapan” exhibit features photos made by Jennifer Wadell alongside interviews and poetry organized by Danielle Legros Georges, a former Mattapan resident who until recently served as Boston’s official poet laureate.

“Mattapan is so dear to my heart and so a part of me,” explained Georges, who spoke to a crowd of nearly 100 people. “So, I knew I wanted to do a Mattapan project. And Jen (photographer) was on board.”

Waddell is best known for capturing unguarded moments from the people she works with. In this project she grasps the true nature of the residential experience in Mattapan.

As a former West Selden Street resident, Georges began by reaching out to folks who had roots and or connections to Mattapan.

“We were really happy to interview and create portraits of the people you see both inside the library and outside the library,” said Georges.

Among those featured in the project is Mia Willis, 25, who said she was pleased to offer her own story as an example of a young woman who was raised in the neighborhood.

“I’m 25, single, no kids. I had negativity around me. I want to prove that people in my same situation, the runaways, the young girls, can overcome,” Willis said.

Longtime resident Cassandra Cato-Louis contributed a poem about embracing one’s true personality. She uses art as a way of changing the world and herself.

“If you don’t have art in a movement, then you really don’t have a movement,” Cato-Louis said, “I want change, I want to make change, I am making change.”

Other artists who collaborated in this event included Arthur Kitty and Robert Peters, who expressed what Mattapan means to them. Some touched on their experience of being residents through poems, offering their take on their own heritage and experience in their community.

The exhibition at the Mattapan branch library (1350 Blue Hill Avenue, Boston) will be open to the public through August 15.