Allston ‘X-Men’ theme soon must fade to blank

A mural covered the side of a building at 510 Lincoln St. in Allston. But amid controversy, the wall is to be painted over. A mural covered the side of a building at 510 Lincoln St. in Allston. But amid controversy, the wall is to be painted over. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
By Vivian Nereim
Globe Correspondent / August 21, 2009

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ALLSTON - A massive “X-Men’’-themed mural that appeared on a Lincoln Street building this summer will soon disappear, having divided Lower Allston’s diverse residents over whether it’s a masterpiece or an eyesore.

“It’s beautiful,’’ Alex Wray said this week. “Atrocious,’’ said Kevin Doherty. “Pretty sweet,’’ said Jordan Allain. “Disgusting,’’ said Olivia Miles.

They agreed on one thing: The mural, which was commissioned by the building’s owner, is impossible to miss. And amid complaints, the owner decided yesterday to have it painted over.

Since appearing in June, the mural at 510 Lincoln St. became a landmark in the neighborhood, a jumble of apartments, houses, and auto body shops. Pull off Cambridge Street and it screams for attention, a riotous collage of comic book characters and colorful lettering layered over a black skyline.

“You go, ‘Wow, what is this?’ ’’ said Fahmy Almaky, who has lived in the area for four years.

But while Almaky said the mural was a welcome addition, and Allain said its loss is a shame, others disagree.

Difficulty with a sidewalk permit forced the artists to leave the wall half-finished, sparking a stream of complaints. The 500 Lincoln Street Partnership, which manages the building, will do away with the mural within two weeks, said one of the owners, Barbara, who declined to give her last name because she said she is “very private.’’

Barbara said she commissioned the mural in June after years of unwanted graffiti when a young artist named J.R. Mathews offered to paint the wall for free. “Some people hate it, some people love it,’’ she said.

Mathews said he called Barbara because he thought the project would be perfect for a group of artist friends who were visiting Boston for a July reunion. “I thought, ‘That’s an incredible wall,’ ’’ he said. “It’s in a really vibrant neighborhood.’’

The top half of the wall is incomplete because his team stopped after police asked them to obtain a permit to use the sidewalk, he said.

Boston police spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll said that if painting equipment was blocking pedestrian traffic, police could have asked the artists to do so.

While Mathews set out to get the permit, Barbara called him about resident complaints. The project stalled.

“Maybe I’m a little more open to different types of artwork and having public art,’’ said Mathews, who said he was taken aback by negative reactions.

In general, the disagreement pits those who have lived in the neighborhood for a few years against those who have lived there for dozens of years.

“It’s ugly,’’ said John Walsh, a 45-year resident. “It just looks more like graffiti than anything decent.’’

But despite community grumblings, Barbara said that dozens of people had been asking workers at Autopart International, the company that occupies the building, about the artist.

Drivers frequently stop their cars to take photographs of the mural, too, said Miguel Ramos, who works across the street at Boston Automotive.

“It looks pretty good to me,’’ he said.

James Didimis, who grew up in the neighborhood and was visiting from Tampa, said he thought the mural should reflect “the genetic makeup’’ of the community. He recalled a project on the same wall that had depicted silhouettes of local residents.

Miles suggested flowers. Walsh suggested a skyline or clouds. Instead, in the weeks to come, the mural will fade to a blank wall.

Vivian Nereim can be reached at