Grantee Voices: Watertown Community Mural Project

A year ago, Watertown’s first public mural in decades, titled A Bicycle Ride Through Watertown, was being completed.  We had been working on a plan for a community bicycle/pedestrian path through Watertown and responded to a suggestion that a long blank wall on the path was a perfect spot for a mural.  Knowing nothing about public art, we talked to neighboring communities, formed a committee, and received funding from local businesses.  We sought out and interviewed local artists, and were thrilled to find Gregg Bernstein with a wonderful and versatile portfolio of murals in the Boston area that he had painted with high school students.

The vibrant mural that resulted from eight weeks of student work was enthusiastically embraced by the community.  Under Gregg Bernstein’s guidance, the students began to see themselves as artists.  The art teacher at the high school who had recruited the students brought Gregg to the school to work with students on a mural for the school library.  The students chose as a theme the cultural diversity of their school and researched symbols for the design.

At this point everything was set for the Watertown Community Mural Summer 2014 project.  Thanks to Fund for the Arts at NEFA and local funders, we were able to embark on a new mural designed by Gregg using the ethnic diversity theme and executed by students under his guidance. Our ad hoc committee partnered with the Watertown Cultural Council as we sought a more formal and permanent organization and widened our scope to include creating a permanent public art program in Watertown.

On June 30 of this year, 12 high school students, many returning from last year, started work on the mural.  Our student blog shows how the work has progressed surprisingly quickly, despite very hot days and no shade. The pictures below document the progress.  First the students create a grid, then transfer Gregg’s design, and finally start layering multiple coats of paint.

The mural is in Watertown Square, a very public place with many passers-by who engage with the students and artist and enthusiastically comment on the progress.  The  Fund for the Arts at NEFA support was substantial and made this project possible.  The involvement of the students, the centrality of the location, and the quality of the artwork have generated community enthusiasm which we hope to build on to create a permanent public art program in our community.

Here are some images of the mural in progress.

Come see the mural next time you are in Watertown; it is at the intersection of Mt. Auburn Street and Baptist Walk on the southwest corner, just a short walk from Watertown Square.