New Nelson Mandela Mural Goes Up in Roxbury
A once blank wall near the intersection of Warren and Clifford Streets in Roxbury has been transformed into a dedication to the late Nelson Mandela thanks to the artistic eye of two local muralists.
Richard Gomez, better known by his street art name, Deme5, and Thomas Burns, who goes by the moniker Kwest, teamed up to create the massive portrait of South Africa’s first black president that sits across the street from the Mall of Roxbury.
The painting is part of the Office of Arts and Culture and the Boston Art Commission’s ongoing “Pop Up! Dudley Connections” program, which aims to bring a series of temporary public and performance art projects to the Boston neighborhood to help revitalize the area.
“They are two very talented guys,” said Jason Turgeon, a Boston events and arts promoter who helped facilitate the piece between the city and the two artists, with the help of Jeremy Alliger, of Alliger Arts. “Obviously, I’m excited. It’s exciting for me to help promote some of these amazing artists who are not being recognized the way they should be in Boston. These guys are real class talents.”
Turgeon and Alliger were also the driving forces behind the multi-day art and community celebrations at the abandoned Bartlett Yards, where creative talents got the opportunity to cover the old bus depot with original works.
The mural features a portrait of the Mandela, who passed away at the age of 95 in December of 2013, that stretches from the ground to the top of the wall, and is supplemented by green, yellow, and reddish colors with the words “Roxbury Love” on either side of his smiling face:
Gomez and Burns were selected to install the artwork, which was described as “huge,” as part of a city program backed by the Boston Art Commission, the mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, Discover Roxbury, Dudley Square Main Streets, and the Department of Neighborhood Development.
Gomez is a Dorchester resident who mostly works with spray paint when he designs and executes a project, but is not limited to the medium. Burns, who was born and raised in Boston, has worked on murals throughout the city as well as displayed his art in local galleries for years.
“It’s massive. This has never been done before. It’s historic” said Gomez, who described the painting as 100-feet wide by 15-feet tall, done completely with spray paint.
The duo, who were applying some finishing touches as of Wednesday afternoon, said the mural beautifies the neighborhood and makes use of a vacant storefront that has been abandoned for ages.
“We have received thanks and praise from people all over the neighborhood. It puts a smile on their faces and gives them hope,” said Gomez.
Besides sending a positive message to the residents of Roxbury and beyond, the mural also has significant local ties. In 1990, Mandela paid a visit to Boston as part of an eight-city tour of the U.S., to raise money and awareness about apartheids impact on his home country, and thank city and state officials for backing his efforts to divest from South Africa.
Turgeon said he hopes that this mural serves as a launching pad for futures projects of its kind, and helps bring additional outdoor pieces commissioned by resident artists to the blank walls all around Boston.
“We have been trying to get walls for artists to paint around Boston and it’s a real struggle. We have really struggled to put together some financing packages to give them a few bucks for their work. But I’m hopeful with each one that goes up, people see the value of it and we will start to see more go around town,” he said.