Veronica Lourich predominately sketches the images of women and members of the LGBTQ community that she never learned about in school.
Emma Gonzalez, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Mauree Turner, Sylvia Rivera, Maya Angelou, Marsha P. Johnson, and Isra Hirsi.
It wasn’t until recently that Veronica Lourich could tell you why these women and members of the LGBTQ+ community were icons in their respective political movements, let alone draw their images. She had a hunch many of her neighbors couldn’t either.
So four months ago, after moving back in with her parents in Madison due to the coronavirus pandemic, she picked up some chalk as a way to connect with her neighbors on their “quarantine walks.” At first, she just left cheesy jokes on the sidewalk.
Then one day she was reading about Stormé DeLarverie, an icon in the LGBTQ+ community who is credited with igniting New York’s Stonewall Riots.
“I found myself disappointed but not surprised that I didn’t know this person’s name,” Lourich said. “That I was never taught about this person.”
She decided to sketch DeLarverie’s image and a few other transwomen on a section of sidewalk by a playground a block from her house. She describes that initial drawing as “rough,” but the kids playing nearby didn’t think so. A boy, who Lourich says couldn’t have been older than 8, told her the women she drew were beautiful.
“It really stopped me in my tracks,” Lourich said. “I thought, OK. I’ll try this again.”
And she did.
Since that initial sketch, she has profiled more than 30 mostly women, but a few men, on the sidewalk near her home.
This spring, when Black Lives Matter rallies became common events following the death of George Floyd, Lourich made an effort to find out about the origins of the movement.
“I was embarrassed that I didn’t know who started it. It’s three incredible women,” said Lourich of Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi. Their portraits are among the 30 she has drawn.
Her latest creation features Madison Alder Arvina Martin. Martin, a Ho Chunk member, is the city’s first Indigenous council member. Lourich said the idea to feature Martin came after her own journey to find out more about the native land we live on leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday. The Dane County area was originally settled by six tribes, the Ho Chunk among them.
Lourich’s latest sketch not only profiles Martin but, she said, connects the “irreparable damage” caused by the European settlers who, “a bit haphazardly and without second thought,” introduced diseases into the Indigenous populations.
“Spreading disease in the homes of others is closely tied to the origins of Thanksgiving,” Lourich said. “I have drawn a cute little turkey saying it to calm the spirits of anyone who might feel a little bit rattled by that challenge.”
Martin, who said she saw the drawing on Instagram, said it is a “big responsibility” to be portrayed as a role model.
“I just want to do right by the people who see the work I do,” she told UpNorthNews Tuesday.
As the first snowfall of the year fell over Madison Tuesday morning, Lourich took to Instagram to say her chalk drawing might be over for the year.
Then she took a shovel down the street, removing the snow over the section of sidewalk where Martin and her Thanksgiving message were drawn a few days earlier.
“She lives,” Lourich exclaimed, when the drawings appeared as the snow was removed.
“Art has always been very grounding for me. To be able to share it with some neighbors has been pretty cool.”