From August 6 to August 19, the Beyond Walls Mural Festival provided an expansive, two-week artistic experience for visitors and residents of downtown Lynn. The goal was to revitalize public spaces through art and expression while building community and prioritizing safety. Although the festival may be over, the sense of community will last all year long, and the Lynn community invites you to take a stroll downtown to admire the art across the city’s buildings.
The first festival started in 2017 and brought art to public spaces that were either underutilized or overlooked. The volunteer-run organization used grassroots methods to bring artists, community members, and visitors together to beautify downtown Lynn, and instill a sense of vibrancy and beauty among the city’s buildings.
“In response to community feedback sessions, our volunteers banded together around inaugural projects with specific issues in mind [such as] bringing more light to Lynn’s downtown area and providing greater access to public art,” said Al Wilson, founder and executive director of Beyond Walls. The community feedback, according to Wilson, was the genesis of the 2017 mural festival.
Wilson said that other projects include, “an installation of dynamic LED lighting on three downtown commuter rail underpasses, the installation of 12 vintage neon artworks on dark street corners, and the installation of a 1942 General Electric I-A engine as a public sculpture, a nod to Lynn’s former industrial past.”
Sofia Maldonado, an artist painting on an Eastern Bank-owned building, said that she’s going for an abstract feeling in the artwork she’s creating. “I’m working on a color abstraction, or what I like to call an ‘intervention in space’,” she said of the project. “I see the building as a full piece. I mainly use color as a signifier rather than a beautifying agent.”
Maldonado said that the artwork is not the only satisfying aspect of the project. “Art creates community, other than painting a big wall,” she said. “I enjoy the interaction with the locals and sharing my work in a public environment.”
Lynn benefits greatly from the colorful art installations and vibrant sense of community that the artists create; the goal of the project is to draw all of us into the unique downtown culture. Though difficult to choose, Beyond Walls program coordinator Doneeca Thurston said that if she had to pick one artistic project that she enjoyed the most, it was that of Nepali artist Sneha Shrestha, who is also known as IMAGINE.
“She has such an incredible story and I love that despite not being able to participate in the Rock the Block [mural festival] event last year, she is now painting three walls during the festival,” Thurston said. “Incorporating her native language into her work is so powerful and her style is unique. With [more than] 50 languages spoken here in Lynn, I think her piece will resonate with a lot of our community members who have been able to hold onto their native languages and traditions.”
IMAGINE and Maldonado are joined by 23 other artists in this year’s Beyond Walls Mural Festival, all of whom will have their work displayed on buildings across Lynn. The success of these artists, however, is dependent upon all of us as consumers and fans of their work.
“This organization can’t fulfill its mission without community involvement, and it’s been great to get various groups, specifically those based in downtown Lynn, more deeply involved in the mural festival this year,” Thurston continued. “I believe that the communities I work with have a stronger sense of pride and ownership this year by having a direct role in the festival.”
Beyond Walls artist, Ruben Ubiera derives his inspiration for his artwork through public interaction.
“I paint the people that I see,” he said. “Every mural always touches somebody. I never decide what I’m going to paint on a wall beforehand. I head right to the wall, feel the community and that’s how I know what’s going to touch [them].”
Ubiera said that the work doesn’t belong to him, but rather to all of us.
“I speak to the crowd, I speak to the community. Then the community owns it…I think about how to get the sentiment, pull at the strings of people’s hearts. It’s [about] knowing emotions and painting emotions. People walk here now and they’re talking about the love on their walls.”
Visit Lynn’s vibrant downtown scene and admire the beautiful artwork created by 25 local artists during the Beyond Walls Mural Festival.