Healey hangs empty picture frame by her desk

Takes cue on underrepresentation from essay written by 3 students


INSTEAD OF HANGING a portrait of an individual by her desk, Gov. Maura Healey is instead opting for a minimalist gold frame, a move proposed by students that the governor hopes will inspire young people to envision themselves inside the frame.

Following a statewide student essay competition, Healey and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll on Wednesday unveiled the artwork that will hang in their offices.

The gold frame idea was proposed in a collaborative essay submitted by Julian Hynes, an 11th grader at Amherst-Pelham Regional High School, and Ja’liyah Santiago and Adniley Velez, 8th graders at Holyoke Community Charter School.

“Our proposal is to break from tradition, to hang nothing but an empty frame to remind you that there will be large groups of people that remain underrepresented, voiceless, and invisible,” wrote Hynes, Santiago, and Velez. “Look forward not back for your inspiration. Look at the young, the poor, the people of color, and the ones who need the most help. Look at the empty frame and then around the table and ask, ‘Who is not represented here?’ Then, break free from the symbolic fetters that bind you and invite them.”

Said Healey: “The State House is the People’s House — and symbols matter. I was inspired by this submission from Julian, Ja’liyah and Adniley, who considered how they themselves could be the face of leadership in our state. This frame serves as a reminder of those who aren’t always reflected or heard in the halls of power. When people come into this office, I want them to envision themselves in that frame.”

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Former Gov. Jane Swift (kneeling in front) and Lt. Gov. Kimberley Driscoll (right) with essay contest participants and Swift’s official portrait. [Courtesy/Governor’s Office]

In the lieutenant governor’s office, Driscoll will hang the portrait of former Gov. Jane Swift, who was at the State House Wednesday to join essay contest participants. A former state senator, Swift was elected lieutenant governor in 1998 and became acting governor when Gov. Paul Cellucci resigned to become U.S. ambassador to Canada. She was the first woman to serve as governor in Massachusetts history.

The walls of the State House for years have featured portraits of past state leaders, mostly white men. Efforts have been undertaken in recent years to use the building to showcase more artwork from around Massachusetts and Senate President Karen Spilka has made a special effort to highlight the women who have held leadership roles and the need to boost the number of women in such roles.