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Mural Planned to Replace Graffiti-Covered Wall in Watertown

A Boston artist used community input to gather ideas and will work with Watertown High School students to create the painting.

The wall along a path between Waverley Avenue and Whites Avenue now has peeling dark grey paint with a number of graffiti tags sprayed on it, but by the end of the summer it will feature a freshly painted mural featuring some of the best parts of life in Watertown.

Leading the way will be mural artist Gregg Bernstein. 

"I’m from Boston, so I am learning all the cool things about Watertown as the project has been developing," Bernstein said. "It’s been a neat learning experience."

The Idea

The committee behind the Watertown Mural Project includes members of the the Watertown Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee; Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment; Sustainable Watertown and the Arsenal Center for the Arts, said Deb Peterson of Watertown Citizens.

The path - know officially as Linear Path - starts near the Watertown Library parking lot and the playing fields behind Town Hall, then continues behind the Hamilton Apartments. That is the location of the wall. (See the video above to see the current state of the wall). 

The Linear Path is part of the Community Path, which will stretch from the Cambridge line to the Charles River. Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee member Janet Jameson said the project will make that stretch more appealing. 

"We hope to make it a very pleasant site and encourage more people to use the path, and to create sense of pride with students to keep it up," Jameson said. "We hope that if this is successful there may be more public art in Watertown."

The committee put together a survey that people filled out at places such as the Watertown Free Public Library and on Survey Monkey (see the survey by clicking here).

"We put boxes in various places with paper people can fill out asking questions about what are you favorite things about Watertown, what is the spirit of Watertown, and what would you like to see on the mural," said Janet Jameson, a member of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee.

Images on the Mural

The committee got a lot of responses, but some came up over and over.

"The thing that stood out most is the Charles River. The second thing people said was the people the diversity, and neighborly feel to things," Peterson said. "Coolidge Square was also really popular, the food and restaurants, and some even said the 71 bus."

The project also got a lot of help from local businesses and organizations, Peterson said. Sherwin Williams will donate the paint, Home Depot will provide the supplies and Tufts Health Plan will come out to clean the wall and put on a couple layers of primer.

The project received donations from the Watertown Community Foundation, the Watertown Cultural Council, Watertown Savings Bank, Sasaki Associates, VHB, Belmont Wheelworks and the Hamilton Apartments allowed the wall to be used, Peterson said.

Creating the Mural

Using all the information, Bernstein will come up with a plan for the mural, which he will work on with a group of Watertown High School students. 

Bernstein has been painting murals for 20 years, often working with youth from the area. He brought a slideshow of some of his previous works, which include two in Allston - the "Famous Joe's" mural on the side of the Silhouette Bar on Brighton Avenue, and "Greetings from Allston Village" on Harvard Avenue.

"I drummed up interest and working in conjunction with the Recreation Department, (the students) will be interns and get community service hours," Bernstein said. "They are awesome, really talented, motivated students who want to be part of community project like this."

While Bernstein will design the mural, it will be up to the students to do the artwork. Bernstein said he will be more like a coach.

"I work with them, but I don’t do the painting," he said. "I explain to them how to correct it, but they will do it. I’ve always been taught not to draw on someone else's drawing. By the end they are so confident, if had time to do second, do so much quicker."

Another benefit of having the students do the mural from start to finish is they take pride and ownership in the project, Bernstein said. 

Most of his other works have been on city streets, so Bernstein looks forward to being in more of a natural setting found along the path. He hopes the mural will remove the eyesore of the wall for good.

"The wall we will be painting on is pretty tagged up. That is one of the things (the committee) wanted to address," Bernstein said. "One selling point of murals is once a higher end piece of art goes up, even the graffiti taggers back off. They know the time and creativity that goes into it."

Laura Dempsey May 21, 2013 at 01:37 PM
What a terrific idea. I walk down this path several times a day with my dog. I'm really looking forward to enjoying the mural.
Julius May 21, 2013 at 06:43 PM
What a great project! It is a shame that public spaces are vandalized with graffiti and the community is left with the clean-up cost. According to www.DefacingAmerica.com, we spend $20 billion a year resolving graffiti problems.

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