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'The Walkway' sheds light on sexual harassment

(Photo: Cheryl Conner)
(Photo: Cheryl Conner)
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At the corner of 14th and U Streets Northwest, the walkway turns heads.

“This is what a lot of people encounter, catcalls or horrible comments randomly thrown at them. I know what it feels like,” said Tracey Mills.

Mills can relate to the stories on the walls about sexual harassment on city streets.

“As a women walking alone in any city in America, whether it’s DC, New York, or Philadelphia, it’s an open invitation sometimes to receive all types of rude comments from people,” said Mills.

There are split faces to show harassment affects all people and a whistling noise that lets visitors know just what it sounds like.

When you reach the center of The Walkway, the walls turn in. Artists were hoping this will make visitors feel claustrophobic.

“Well certainly anybody who’s experienced street harassment or harassment of any type understands what a constricted feeling that is, and so I think that was one of the attempts of the designers,” said Arthur Espinoza Jr., the executive director of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, one of the organizers behind this exhibit and a similar one in Columbia Heights.

A $41,000 grant made the projects possible.

The Walkway is part of the mayor’s Vision Zero plan to make streets safer.

“A lot of reality, sometimes pleasant sometimes not,” said Wayne Kahn, a visitor to The Walkway.

“I would understand that this would be a little bit of a pain point for some people,” said Janine Bilyeu, who is checking out The Walkway for the first time, after the company she works for printed the designs.

The stories may bring up memories of harassment.

Other comments on the walls could be taken as a compliment.

“It’s jarring and sometimes you feel alone. But you see an exhibit like this and people sharing their stories, and you know you’re not alone. And hopefully this will change things,” said Mills.

There is an opportunity for visitors to let the artists know what they think about the exhibit by sending a text.

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