City’s Mural Crew Creates Art Around Boston with Focus on Franklin Park

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This summer's Mural Crew employed triple the amount of youth for the program's 29th year, with 27 youth participating in this year's program.

The city decided to increase the amount of Boston high school students for the program to provide more teenagers with a safe, in-person experience to create large-scale public art projects throughout the city, according to a press release. This year's crew included teenagers representing 12 different local high schools from 10 neighborhoods.

"This summer we got to make new forms of art in the woods that pushed our thoughts and conceptions of art, and allowed us to experience something new," said Jamaica Plain's Jon Lopez-Wilen, a junior studying illustration at Lesley University, who has worked with the Mural Crew since 2015.

Earlier in the spring, there was a tremendous surge in the use of Franklin Park, and with the Mural Crew being based out of the city's Parks Department farm in Franklin Park, they took inspiration from the amount of socially-distanced space within Franklin Park.

The Mural Crew let the "forest school" outdoor education learning style serve as a guide for the summer's work, so instead of the traditional summer experience of painting murals in parks or small business walls, this year's Crew focused on a selection of street activism, painting, and placemaking projects. All projects took place outdoors and followed proper COVID-19 public health guidelines.

"As a team, we had to think outside of the literal box and create a summer work program of alternative learning, art-making, and skill-building-inspired by the times, and our city's parks," said Jamaica Plain resident Heidi Schork and Liz O'Brien, who co-lead The Mayor's Mural Crew program. Schork is the director and founding artist of the Mayor's Mural Crew.

A deer head sculptural structure in the woods of Franklin Park built on July 21, 2020, led by youth artist Madalyn Spitz. Photo courtesy of the City of Boston.

"I had no idea what this summer was going to bring. I prayed that this job would work out because the people I meet are so down to earth and funny and human," said Jamaica Plain's Nina Porter, a rising senior at Meridian Academy, who just completed their second summer as a Mural Crew artist. "The diversity is incredible, and it seems like we are just bursting at the seams with suppressed creativity that quarantine has brought upon us. While this was unexpected, it was not unpleasant. I still get to be creative and make friends safely."

This year's projects included (details provided by a press release):

A labyrinth of land art installations and whimsical pathways in Franklin Park. The crew built a dozen sculptural structures including a beech tree treehouse, using only native material (live plants, stones, fallen limbs, and branches) in the south end of the park, by Scarboro Pond.

A series of landscape watercolors and illustrated map designs of public parks in Boston.

A series of social justice sidewalk quote designs, with a temporary installation of youth artist Leah Prodigalidad's design, painted on a Franklin Park sidewalk along Blue Hill Avenue. Using Irwin marking chalk and Montana chalk spray, the crew captured Maya Angelou's quote: "We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color."

A series of pop-art style mask self-portraits, painted 6 feet apart from each other on plywood against barn doors in Franklin Park. The portraits will be installed in public spaces across the city this fall.

This year's Mural Crew included:

  • Jonathan Lopez-Wilen
  • Taylor Billy
  • Kaylee Chang
  • Angel Zayas
  • Brenda Cartagena
  • Brian Santizo Romero
  • Cait Duncan
  • Christy Jestin
  • Cindy Nguyen
  • Danny Le
  • David Liu
  • Erika Rivas
  • Grace Sullivan
  • Isabel Oalican
  • Jaden Malagodi
  • James Sullivan
  • Jeff Charles
  • John Gallagher
  • Julia Spitz
  • Leah Prodigalidad
  • Lucy Edelstein-Rosenberg
  • Madalyn Spitz
  • Max Lyman
  • Mila Fields-Zayas
  • Nathaniel McKay
  • Niamh Mulligan
  • Nina Porter
  • Sage Stuart
  • Sayde Cheever
  • Valencia Louis
  • Zariyah Wilkerson