BOSTON, MASS. (June 2021) – To pair celebrated Black muralists with up-and-coming artists, Now + There is pleased to announce a year-long project, “Mentoring Murals,” coming in June with a series of temporary, printed murals mounted at 345 Blue Hill Avenue in the Grove Hall neighborhood between Roxbury and Dorchester. The first pairing will be artists Paul Goodnight and Larry Pierce, and their murals will be on display from June 16 to Sept. 10. All are welcome to the public unveiling Wednesday, June 16 from 5 to 7 p.m. (Rain date: June 17).
To amplify the Black mural movement’s past and present in Roxbury and Dorchester, the project builds on the importance of mentorship in maintaining a vibrant Black arts community by inviting artists to team up with a younger artist to create side-by-side works of art on a visible wall in the neighborhood. Printed on fine mesh from an original painting, the murals will change every three to four months, allowing for a range of artists in age and ability to create large-scale imagery.
Within walking distance to several other important Grove Hall murals, the 13’ x 60’ wall at 345 Blue Hill Avenue is part of the anchor community business, Breezes Laundromat, and will become a focal point for mural enthusiasts and for those wanting to learn more about the enduring legacy of Black artists in Boston. The changing imagery and a mobile tour of all Grove Hall murals available at www.nowandthere.org/tour will give a reason to return to the site multiple times.
“Mentoring Murals” is a pilot program by Now + There, a nonprofit organization bringing temporary, site-specific public art to all neighborhoods of Boston, in collaboration with Greater Grove Hall Main Streets (GGHMS) and support from Breeze’s Laundromat LLC. The goal is to create temporary public art with aligned community organizations for a more vibrant and equitable Boston. The next installation will be designed by Ekua Holmes of the Roxbury Sunflower Project and London Parker-McWhorter from Sept. 15 to Nov. 10. There will be six artworks presented as part of the program through February 2022.
When Ed Gaskin came to Grove Hall, he said there was only one work of public art listed by the Boston Arts Commission. “Learning of the relationship between public art and economic development, and the challenges artists of color have in getting the opportunity to display their work, we set out to change that,” said Gaskin, GGHMS’s Executive Director. “Murals were one way to bring more public art to the community, but they are expensive, permanent, and limited to muralists.” He said they are grateful for financial support from the Boston Main Streets Foundation and Now + There so “art infrastructure will be in place for us to display the best established and emerging artists from a range of styles, at a much lower cost.”
From the 1960s to today, local artists such as Dana Chandler, Napoleon Jones-Henderson, Sharon Dunn, and others have registered the neighborhood’s significance as a center of Black culture. During the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 70s, the neighborhood’s walls became the fulcrum of powerful murals, starting a tradition that continues to this day. Notable examples include “Africa is the Beginning,” by Gary Rickson (1969), Dana Chandler’s “Knowledge is Power” (c. 1973), “Faces of Dudley” by Mike Womble (1995, reprised 2015), “Roxbury Love,” by Ricardo “Deme5” Gomez and Thomas “Kwest” Burns (2016-2020), and “Breathe Life 3” by Rob “Problak” Gibbs (2019) for Now + There. The wall at 345 Blue Hill Ave is catty-corner from Gibbs’s first in the “Breathe Life” series.
Murals–bringing diverse representations of Black life and culture–have popped up across Dorchester in recent years. These artworks emerge atop the foundation of African American scene painting from the 1930s and 40s. In particular, painter Allan Rohan Crite “biographer of urban African-American life in Boston,” nurtured a generation of Black artists, known as “The Boston Collective” to depict their daily lives, as well as Black narratives, as a way of claiming space and broadening cultural representation. Upcoming installments include pieces from Crite mentees Goodnight and Johnetta Tinker.
“What we love about this project – and its emphasis on mentoring – is that it celebrates the inter-connectedness we need to create, produce, and showcase public art in neighborhoods. It takes many hands, many viewpoints, and ultimately it creates a higher awareness about one another and the places we call home across Boston,” said Kate Gilbert, Now + There’s Executive Director.