More Than 500 Portraits on Display Underneath Commuter Rail Tracks in Lynn
Boston may be heralded for its ability to harbor the public arts, but some kids in Lynn with an eye for transforming bland outdoor spaces into spots where people can admire creative works are giving the city a run for its money.
There are now more than 500 portraits of residents, elected leaders, and community activists that mark the wall running beneath the MBTA Commuter Rail’s Central Square stop in Lynn, each one created by children who attend Raw Art Works, or RAW, an after school space that teaches kids how to tap into their inner artist, whether it be through film, pencil on paper, or using paint brushes.
Käthe Swaback, program director at RAW, said the massive mural project is a hat-tip to the people who make up the Lynn community. She said students spent months going out into the streets, taking photos of locals—both notable and complete strangers—using iPads gifted to the organization. They then recreated the likeness of the photos using ink and transfer sheets before they were mounted using Dibond and aluminum materials.
“They will last a long time,” said Swaback.
The portraits, drawn in black-and-white on color backgrounds, were installed this week, and stretch from one end of the wall directly beneath the busy Commuter Rail stop to the other, nearly covering it from top to bottom.
Swaback said of the 528 portraits that were put up, 162 are self-portraits of the kids that go to RAW. She said most kids also created two to three portraits of people from the neighborhood. There are 66 panels along the wall, each one with eight portraits on it.
“We went to the school superintendent’s office, high schools, cultural districts, the Lynn museum, business owners along the streets, Dunkin Donuts—all places that are part of our community,” said Swaback.
She said the organization had been working with the MBTA, through a program at RAW called “Good to Go,” where volunteers scope out public spaces to place artistic designs. After looking at the blank, grim wall beneath the train tracks, they entered into conversations with T officials and secured the space for their project.
“It was a lengthy process, but it was approved eventually and we were able to get started with it,” she said.
There was a lot of trial and error in the months it took to print, mount, and complete the mural concept, but with the help of the dedicated staff at RAW, and the enthusiasm of the kids behind the composition, they were finally able to wrap things up this week.
“It’s a tribute to the awesome people that have made [Lynn] a successful city,” said Swaback.