How the Harehills Warrior Girl mural became a symbol of empowerment for Getaway Girls
Leeds has seen a surge in public artwork recently, but one particular mural has been brightening up the streets of Harehills for years.
The Warrior Girl mural in Bexley Road is a bright and vivid design, centred on the face of a young woman.
The artwork is split into two halves, the first half depicting a beautiful woman with her hair flying loose in the wind.
Her hair then morphs into a feather headdress, painted in a sea of rich blues, greens and purples, which depicts the strong warrior within.
It is the perfect symbol for the charity that commissioned it, the Getaway Girls, who work to empower young women in the area.
Since the mural was painted by artist Harriet Wood in 2019, the image of the strong, powerful Warrior has become synonymous with the charity and is used to symbolise the positive work the charity has done in the last 32 years.
Flavia Docherty, director of Getaway Girls, said: “We received some funding from were told we had to use it to raise the profile of the charity and show what we stand for.
"We had been working with graffiti artists for years but for this particular mural I wanted to work with a woman and I was amazed by the stunning work Harriet had done.
“Harriet was really collaborative and the girls were heavily involved in the design process.
“They all agreed that they really wanted to show a strong female character, but one who could be any ordinary girl, and I think the mural reflects that.
“Getaway Girls is all about building confidence, resilience and aspirations so it is the perfect, positive image.
“Since it was painted, we have used the image at the charity a lot.
“We've had t-shirts printed with it on, it is on the front of our website and we've done projects in schools like Hillcrest Primary School using the image to talk about identity and empowerment.
She added: “I wasn't sure how people would take it having this big piece of artwork on our wall, but it's been really positive.
"People stop and share photos of it on social media, which they tag us in.
“They always say it is brilliant and they’d love to see more art that reflects life here in Harehills.”
Artist Harriet Wood, originally from York, travelled from Bristol to design the artwork, describing the commission as one of her “dream jobs”.
Harriet Wood, known as HazardOne, said: “This was one of my dream jobs because it was all about empowering young women.
“I did workshops with the girls and we really drilled down into what it was about their community they liked and wanted to represent.
“We also drew from things they had bought with them, as the group were different ages, from different backgrounds and some had moved from a different country.
“We wanted something that was gonna be really inclusive, so it's gonna represent all girls not just some of them.
"One of the girls did a blue and red and red design sketch that just blew me away so we used in the final artwork."
She added: "With any sort of street artwork, it is really important that everyone feels like it is theirs rather than mine as the artist.
“Public art is always about giving people ownership and making them feel like it's representative of them and their community.
“Harehills in particular has a real community, and while I was painting people kept coming over to talk to me.
"They were just wowed and said they had nothing like that around."
Getaway Girls was set up by a group of youth workers in Leeds more than 30 years ago.
The charity works to empower young girls and women aged 11 to 25 and help them to build confidence, resilience and develop new skills.
During the pandemic, women at the charity created a digital storytelling project called HerStory, which they launched on International Women’s Day in March.
The young women wrote deeply moving, inspiring and uplifting content about their lives, what’s important to them and hopes for the future.
Lifesize silhouettes were also produced and doorstep photos taken by photographer Sam Toolsie to create a digital exhibition.
The exhibition will also be housed in Leeds City Museum once it reopens for the public to visit.