Thursday, February 17, 2022

Maynard's Murals

Part of mural on the old Gruber Bros. warehouse
Maynard is on the verge of losing its largest and oldest mural. The crumbling warehouse behind what once was Gruber Bros furniture was muralized on all four sides by members of CinderBlockHustle in 2008, then revised by the same group with a militaristic/patriotic theme in 2012. The building is due for demolition as part of the conversion of the site into apartments and street-facing businesses. After a pause of several years to catch its outdoor art breath, Maynard witnessed the creation of eight more murals, 2016-2021, with potentially more public art pending. Everything can be viewed via a walking/driving tour of the Maynard Cultural District.

Ana Dugan standing in
front of her mural
Start by parking in the municipal lot across from Fine Arts Theater. The large ‘people’ mural to the west was painted by Anna Dugan in 2021. The request for proposals had called for a piece that represented the past, present and future, to be part of Maynard’s celebration of its 150th anniversary. Anna’s design was selected from among several applicants. In a semi-abstract of bright colors, it features seven people and a short poem. Funding was provided through the Maynard Cultural District Mural Fund as part of a multi-year “Maynard as a Canvas” vision.

From this location, look to the south to see where the El Huipil restaurant paid Boston artist Eileen Riestra and Puerto Rico artist Elena Fadhel to create a Mexican-themed mural on the site of the building wall in 2019. It features three “calavera” style skulls accompanied by rainbow-hued animals and insects. From the parking lot, next walk east on Main Street, then south on Waltham Street, then cross to the east side to view a mural painted on the south side of Excelsior Comics and Games. It’s a chaotic vision of video game monsters spewing forth from a screen. This was completed by Nick Maskell in 2018. On his website he wrote that the mural was painted in acrylic on large wooden panels that were then mounted together to form one finished piece.

Excelsior Comics and Games mural, now
joined by a giant's skeleton (not shown)
Meanwhile, same year, the long-empty Murphy & Snyder building at the corner of Waltham and Parker Streets was graced with murals on both sides: an abstract-to-real portrayal of a hummingbird approaching a flower on the south side, painted by Eric Giddings and Ben ‘Berj’ Braley, and on the north side Henry David Thoreau looking down out of a window to see Babe Ruth in a Rex Sox uniform, painted by Jack Pabis. Together, the murals were the first effort of “Maynard as a Canvas.” This concept was brought to fruition by Erik Hansen, a Maynard artist, who had been impressed by public murals during a visit to Iceland. His proposal was acted on by the Maynard Cultural Council. An announcement in 2017 for proposals from experienced murals artists yielded 80 entries, winnowed down to six finalists, and then two winning entries. The result represents a commitment from the Town of Maynard to support public art and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts recognizing a Maynard Cultural District.

One of six panels at "The Commons"
Next, return to your car, exit the lot on the north side, turn left, and then left again into the town lot behind CVS pharmacy. From there, it is a short step to a circumnavigation of the warehouse behind the former Gruber Bros. building. This one incorporates hyper-stylized lettering more associated with graffiti. Next on the list is the by-far most obscure, a set of six panels that make up the Goldfish Art Project, executed by origamist Lisa B. Corfman in 2018. The project was partially funded by the Maynard Cultural Council. To get there, cross Main, cross Walnut, then walk down the metal stairs to mill property. Walk south, parallel to the river, turn right before getting to Building 6, then right again. There is a roofed area branded “The Commons” with the panels inside.

Last on the list is the Bee Meadow mural – actually two murals – behind ArtSpace. Once back in the parking lot, either drive north, then left on Summer Street, or else walk across the lawn on the north side of the lot to Euclid Street, connect to Florida Road; either route, get to the back of ArtSpace. Images of flowering plants were painted on the concrete wall behind the meadow by Maynard High School students in 2016. They added their initials: AH, SD, CD, HB, JMC and IH. The fifteen canvas panels of bumblebees, butterflies and flowers were painted by Brandon Trainito and mounted atop the concrete wall in July 2021.

Handprints of the student 
painters of the Bee Meadow mural
All this muralizing of Maynard begs the question – does the town have regulations in place covering what one can and cannot do to a wall? Or, does a private property owner have the right to paint the outside of their home as they chose to? The law is a bit unsettled, but it appears that local governments have an ability to impose zoning restrictions, including aesthetic zoning, but this then runs into a First Amendment right for people to engage in artistic expression on their own property. The latter wins. A gray area is regulation of art on a business’ wall. Is it 100 percent art, or is it promoting the business in question by name, and hence a potentially regulated business sign?

There is a distinction between street art and graffiti. The major difference is that street art is usually done with permission. It can even be paid work. A content difference is that graffiti is usually word-based art, often a stylized signature or ‘tag’ by the creator(s), whereas street art is more commonly image-based. Obviously, there can be cross-over from graffitist to artist, the rare few transitioning from illegal night work to sold-out gallery shows and museums (Keith Haring, you are missed).   

Mark prefers to do his decorating with flowers. See


No comments:

Post a Comment