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Meera Desai collaborating with Asian Women’s Shelter
Award:  $28,000 Visual Arts grant awarded in 1998
Presented: September 1999

Engaging the women and children residing at the Asian Women’s Shelter along with staff and volunteers, painter Meera Desai created three murals within the shelter. As the shelter’s site is confidential, the project reached an external audience through publication and distribution of the mural images on postcards, greeting cards, and annual reports.

Women and children come to the Asian Women’s Shelter during times of crisis. Often it is the first place children have lived without the fear of violence. Through creating three murals in communal areas within the shelter and engaging the women and children in selecting imagery and painting, the artist sought to strengthen their sense of safety and belonging and to provide for them solace, hope, beauty, and inspiration. At least 20 people helped to paint the murals. Desai collaborated with adult residents and staff on two of them and with the residents’ children on the third.

Meera Desi began painting public murals in 1991, initially working with Susan Greene. At the time she was embarking on the collaboration with the Asian Women’s Shelter, she had participated in and directed 17 murals, including “Rhythms of India,” with her sister Monica Desai-Henderson, for the Asian Art Museum in 1997; and worked as one of seven principal artists to design and paint “Maestrapeace,” the four story mural on two sides of the San Francisco Women’s Building.

The Asian Women’s Shelter, based in San Francisco, is a multilingual, multicultural shelter program with a special focus on the needs of low-income, non-English speaking Asian battered women and their children. It provides safe shelter, food, clothing, case management, and counseling to approximately 100 women and children who reside in the shelter each year.