Remarkable Alum


Below are profiles of Hobart and William Smith alumni and alumnae whose big ideas are changing the world.

Janet Braun-Reinitz '73

Janet Braun-Reinitz '73

President of Artmakers, Inc.

Janet Braun-Reinitz '73, president of Artmakers Inc., a Brooklyn-based mural organization, has dedicated her life to activism. Prior to attending HWS, Braun-Reinitz was a Freedom Rider during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

While living in New York City in 1961, Braun-Reinitz first learned of the movement through friends who were involved in the organization, Congress of Racial Equality. Braun-Reinitiz quit her job and flew to St. Louis for several days of training. Following training, she rode with others to Little Rock, Ark., where upon arrival she was jailed for "breaching the peace." After being released from jail, Braun-Reinitz continued her quest to test whether segregation, which had been made illegal by the U.S. Supreme Court, was still in effect.

Today, Braun-Reinitz works as a muralist and studio artist based in New York City. Since she began making murals in 1984, Braun-Reinitz has painted between 50 to 60 murals in seven countries, including India, Ghana, England, Georgia, Italy, Nicaragua and the United States. Her 3,300-square-foot mural titled "When Women Pursue Justice" can be found in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. The mural was created in collaboration with 12 other women artists.

Through Artmakers, Braun-Reinitz, in collaboration with artist Jane Weissman, co-authored the book "On the Wall: Four Decades of Community Murals in New York City," which includes 150 color photographs of 140 murals painted since 1968. In an interview with "The Brooklyn Rail," Braun-Reinitz said of her inspiration for the book, "The more I paint murals the more I realize how ephemeral they really are. My hope is that now that there's a record of New York City murals through 2007, as they go forward people will continue to document their history."

As Hobart and William Smith's first women's studies student, Braun-Reinitz worked with the late Professor of History Bob Huff to design her own women's studies major to match her interests and ideals-she graduated just one semester before students could officially declare the major. In addition to her major, Braun-Reinitz minored in studio art. In 1974, she headed the "Eye of Woman" art exhibition at the Colleges that featured work by all female artists. The event had a large turnout—the exhibit brought the sexual body into question and allowed discussion of the female body from a female viewpoint, something not common at the time. Braun-Reinitz recalls, "It was in some ways refreshing, in some ways a scandal."

On the 40th anniversary of women's studies at HWS, Braun-Reinitz reflected on her experience at the Colleges, "I am very proud to be the first women's studies major," she says. "It was an idea whose time had come and there were plenty of faculty members who were sympathetic to my cause. All across campus, they were already teaching courses on women's history, women writers and women artists. We were so close to Seneca Falls—we knew that part of the story, but there was - and is - so much to learn."


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