Lowell’s landscape is about to change dramatically. This month, in just two weeks, eight muralists, from Lowell and around the world, will produce large-scale works of art in city neighborhoods through the creative placemaking initiative ArtUp Lowell.
Collaborative civic art initiatives like ArtUp Lowell can transform public spaces, create welcoming environments for local residents and visitors, and be an important source of a city’s economic development and tourism promotion. Over the course of 10 years, Chicago’s Millennium Park generated $1.4 billion in visitor spending, nearly a 3:1 return on the initial $500 million investment made through public and private funds.
Beyond the economic benefits, placemaking and other types of public art projects empower a city’s residents and provide opportunities to engage young people in making art and beautifying their neighborhoods.
According to an article from the National League of Cities, “Areas that are well-lit and have public art or murals attract pedestrians, cyclists and even car traffic, leading to safer and more vibrant communities.”
In 2019, Project LEARN and more than 30 local partners built on the Lowell Community Health Center’s successful ArtUp program, and ArtUp Lowell, a youth arts and place-based initiative that creates dynamic and culturally relevant art in public spaces around Lowell’s diverse communities .
That summer, ArtUp Lowell launched its placemaking era with Jack’s Flags, a project in Kerouac Park that engaged more than 800 students and 14 teachers to create a temporary art exhibit.
Over the past three years, ArtUp Lowell has become a citywide coalition of local artists, business owners and dedicated community members whose mission is to increase civic engagement in the arts, celebrate the city’s cultural vibrancy, and increase foot traffic and spending at restaurants and promote small businesses. businesses near where murals are located.
“Creating a vibrant visual experience for residents and visitors puts Lowell in the category of other cities that invest in the arts and embrace their diverse histories and show pride in their community,” said James Grace, executive director of the Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston, which now owns Western Avenue Studios. “Murals have the power to engage and inspire.”
As Lowell began to emerge from the initial waves of the COVID-19 pandemic in the fall of 2021, the coalition began looking for ways to jump-start the city’s economic recovery and build Lowell’s reputation as a center for vibrant, multicultural arts. strengthen that celebrates diverse community stories. .
Thanks to the expertise of the Massachusetts-based placemaking nonprofit, Beyond Walls, and local production management company, BRM Production Management, ArtUp Lowell entered its next phase and was able to bring in two large-scale murals by international muralists, David Zayas and Evaristo Angurria. Centre.
Then, this past March, more than 200 artists applied for the call for art and an 18-member selection committee identified finalists based on artists’ prior experience at scale and their connection to Lowell’s diverse population.
Representation matters. When young people see their culture skillfully represented in large-scale public art, it encourages them to be involved in civic spaces and in community building.
Pushing this year’s project from two to seven large-scale murals was no small task. Thanks to a partnership between businesses, local arts organizations and nonprofits, educational institutions, civic leaders, local philanthropist and arts advocate Nancy Donahue, and a matching grant from MassDevelopment’s Commonwealth Places grant program, ArtUp Lowell will collectively invest more than $250,000 toward the murals .
New partners this year—such as UMass Lowell, Middlesex Community College, the Eliot Church, and Coalition for a Better Acre—helped ArtUp Lowell bring dynamic, culturally responsive public art to our neighborhoods and to college campuses.
The second round of murals comes at an opportune time for the city, following the re-emergence of the Lowell Folk Festival and the launch of Mosaic Lowell’s draft cultural plan. Led by the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, and Mosaic Lowell, local arts and cultural organizations will showcase artistic talent and creativity through VIBE Fest, a month-long celebration of art and creativity, kicking off on Saturday, August 20. , at Curation 250 in Mill No. 5.
Check out the ArtUp Lowell page on the Like Lowell website for more information about events and murals.
Many thanks to the city, the National Park, the Historical Commission, Mosaic Lowell, Greater Lowell Community Foundation, Lowell’s talented artist community, and our many partners for their vision and contributions. If you would like to contribute to the effort in any way, email Autumn Kleiner at [email protected]
This column was written by LZ Nunn and Michael Gallagher, with Adam Baacke, UMass Lowell Chancellor Julie Chen, Carl Howell, JuanCarlos Rivera and Middlesex Community College President Philip Sisson.