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All art is local: Lawrence woman's work featured on shirts

Updated: Sep 25, 2020

Carl Russo/Staff Photo - from left to right: Dominic Amenta and Lena Harris, co-founders of the clothing group 195essential in Boston, and Marquis Victor, founder of Elevated Thought in Lawrence, an art and social justice organization, hold a t-shirt with the artwork of Michelle Collado of Lawrence.

Art, activism and commerce merge in a Lawrence woman’s design chosen by a Boston apparel-maker for its Voter T-shirt collection.

Michelle Collado’s “End Voter Suppression” shirt is set to launch Sept. 22, on National Voter Registration Day.

Collado, a junior at the Rhode Island School of Design, and a 2018 Lawrence High School graduate, entered her work in a contest this summer.

The Boston clothing company, 195essential, sought entries based on the question: What does voting mean to you?

Collado’s image is of a young woman with dark hair, brown skin and penetrating eyes. She wears a mask but won’t be silenced. Below her face are the words “End Voter Suppression.”

Collado wants people to think about barriers to voter registration and voting faced by many people — often racial minorities – including a lack of transportation or stable housing.

Other obstacles might include long lines, fewer polling places and child care challenges.

“It acknowledges those people and what they are going through to register and vote,” Collado said.

Lena Harris, 20, and her father founded the company 195essential after the pandemic hit, to celebrate essential workers.

195essential awarded Collado $500 for her winning design.

The company will donate half the profits from voter T-shirt sales to the Seed the Vote registration initiative in California.

Harris, a political economics major at Barnard College in NYC, said Collado’s art jumped out at her and others.

The woman in Collado’s image is masked but her voice and conviction are expressed through the eyes, Harris said.

195essential sought entries for the contest through the Lawrence nonprofit Elevated Thought, a group of young people who seek personal and social change through art.

Elevated Thought’s public art adorns numerous outdoor locations in Lawrence, including a 40-foot mural on the exterior of the Lawrence Public Library, the Buckley Transportation Center, the 423 Haverhill St. site and at 429-431 Essex St.

Collado has been part of Elevated Thought for about five years. She started out attending painting workshops, then volunteered there before becoming a staff member.

The nonprofit’s founder and director, Marquis Victor, said Collado’s message encourages people who have been marginalized and disenfranchised to get involved in the political process by voting, especially now during an especially pivotal presidential election.


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