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Picturing Our Dreams Mural


Picturing Our Dreams Mural was designed as a bridge for youth incarcerated in Monroe County at Monroe County Jail and Monroe Correctional Facility to picture a future for themselves in the Rochester community. The youth were asked about their lives, what they dream for themselves, what their dreams were for making Rochester a better, safer, more livable community for themselves and their children. The mural was created to share the lives, loves, histories, hopes, and fears of incarcerated youth and their dreams for themselves and for Rochester.


By Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams.  

For if dreams die,

Life is a broken-winged bird  

That cannot fly.  

Hold fast to dreams.

For when dreams go,

Life is a barren field

Frozen with snow.   

NYSLC Executive Director and Founder, Dale Davis, and visual artist Margot Muto guided and developed the Picturing Our Dreams Mural with the youth.

Picturing Our Dreams Mural was NYSLC’s first mural to go out into the community to be exhibited. It was exhibited at a community college; at Rochester’s Downtown Community Forum as part of presentation by Dale Davis and Edward Ignarri, Board Member of NYSLC, on NYSLC’s programs with incarcerated youth; and as an exhibition of NYSLC’s work with incarcerated youth at Link Gallery in Rochester City Hall https://www.nyslc.org/picturingdreams.htm.

At Link Gallery, Rochester City Hall viewers were able to reach into a box and pull out a piece of paper that contained a dream written by an incarcerated youth. This was carried over electronically to the website.

Picturing Our Dreams Mural was located in a classroom used by NYSLC at Monroe Correctional Facility from 2009 – 2019. In 2019 it was moved to Monroe County Jail.


When I was sentenced, to be completely honest, I wasn't expecting to accomplish anything in jail. Come on jail, jail where all the bad people live, where time stops and everything is lost. Can you blame me for giving up hope. This mural was a second chance in all that was forgotten, like dreams, goals, disappointments to all those we all dishonored. I made a mistake. I am human. The mural has been a bridge between my community and the civil war going on in my mind.


I am tired of fighting my dreams.


I want you to look at Picturing Our Dreams and know I want my dreams. I want my purpose on earth. This is what I want you to grab.


The microphone in Picturing Our Dreams is to let you know that those of us who are incarcerated are voicing our thoughts and dreams to our community in the mural. We are expressing our feelings for a better community, for peace, and for telling each other to never give up our hopes and dreams.  

I would like to see the mural shown downtown because that’s where most people in the city pass through coming from one side of town to another, waiting for the bus, or going to school.


This mural is speaking for each and every one of us who is incarcerated. These are our dreams, our thoughts, and our hopes. This is our time to shine, and we want to show you that our dreams and aspirations maybe aren’t that different from yours. Look at the mural and think of your dreams. I hope the mural will inspire you to dream.

I want a life

I can say I was proud of,

not a normal one,

an extraordinary one,


somebody will remember.

Don’t let your dreams die.


This mural is the lives, loves, histories, hopes and fears of those of us who are incarcerated. I hope when you look at this mural you will look at those of us who made mistakes differently.


I’m currently on probation for five years. I missed court because my mom was in the hospital, so I couldn’t make it to court. They sent out a warrant. I’ve been here for two weeks now, and I am supposed to be going home on April 12.


I am so excited that somebody came up with this mural, and that they thought about us. This mural means a lot to me because it proves that we aren’t any different from anyone else, and we have dreams too. We dream about going to college and getting a good job. We dream about who we want to be in life. Once simple mistake doesn’t have to determine who we really are. We want to live our dreams. We want to live past the stereotypes, racism and discrimination.


Are jails and prisons

the only places

you can see us.


can’t you see us?

Is this the reason we kill each other?


look at this mural.

See us.


is who we are.


We are all in it for the long run, and we know no path to success is easy. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream, and we want to see his dream alive.  We must learn not to fight against each other. We must learn to build dreams and not break them.

I want you to look at this mural as a sign of learning to build dreams.

We want our mural to inspire as well as bring hope and understanding to the Rochester community. We want the community to realize we have dreams.  

This mural is our way of giving back, a sign that we as individuals want to succeed


My dream is to be the best I can be, to have my family and peers be proud of me for my accomplishments, and to finally head down the right path.

My dream is for the Rochester community. It is for crime and poverty to go on a decline.

My dream is to fall in love.

My dream is for people to smile, not cry.

My dream is for everyone to get along.

My dream is to learn how to be a good father, to be the father I never had, and to be there for my children.

My dream is that Rochester would have more jobs for people.

My dream is to work things out with my family.

My dream is to get a real education.

My dream is to do things right. My dream is to learn what it takes for me not to come to jail.

My dream is for the Rochester community to stop all the violence.

My dream is to be successful in my own business.

My dream is for no drug dealing and drug taking in my family.

My dream is to have a family that wants me and cares for me.

My dream is not to face pain every day.

My dream is to believe in myself, to believe I am somebody.

My dream is when I die I don’t want people crying. I want people smiling and saying his words stopped me from hurting someone.

My dream is to be loved.

My dream is for people not to look at me as a drug dealer and a gangbanger.

My dream is that my baby who died is in heaven.

My dream is that somebody will listen to us and hear our dreams.

My dream is to make it to twenty-one.

Picturing Our Dreams Mural was made possible with funding from The Marie C. and Joseph C. Wilson Foundation and the New York State Council on The Arts.

©2019 Dale Davis, The New York State Literary Center