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Malden teens spread their message with Route 60 mural

Posted by Matt Byrne  May 3, 2011 09:04 AM

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Matt Byrne

A crew of half a dozen went about priming the concrete wall on Route 60 where the mural will go up this month.

Three years after its conception and a design process driven by local teens, volunteer painters began work on Malden's first mural Monday.

"Its all finally come together," said Tova Speter, 32, program manager for The Art Connection, a Boston nonprofit that teamed with the city to plan and paint the piece.

"So we're just happy to be here and get started," she said.

A crew of six, including three students, took on the 70-foot by 20-foot expanse of drab concrete, located under the Orange Line overpass on route 60. The location will provide motorists and pedestrians entering the city a vibrant welcome, said Speter in an interview.

Initial funding of $1,200 was granted through the New England Foundation for the Arts, enough to pay for the design phase. But Speter spent a year patching together about $6,000 after an application for a second grant for the total cost was denied for the 2010 cycle of awards, she said.

"Then we began our crusade to get this done," Speter said.

Work on the public art, including a a final graffiti-resistant coating, is expected to conclude June 6.

Under a cloudless sky with trains rumbling overhead and traffic whizzing at their backs, the group primed the canvas before a more intricate sketching of the final design is expected in the coming weeks. Work will continue Mondays and Wednesdays.

Speter will be helped by Arlington artist Anyahlee Suderman, 33, who runs an gallery and art program at a nonprofit in Somerville. The expansive work, titled "Strong past, proud future," will depict themes from around the city, including the old Converse factory, a symbolic representation of the Orange Line, the city's high school mascots, and, other, key images from around the city.

Mural3.jpg

The basic outlines will have to be in place befor a May 15 community painting day, when everyone in Malden is invited to help paint, no experience or qualification required.

When finished next month, the piece will greet motorists and pedestrians entering the city in what Speter said was an effort by the city to ramp up public art in Malden.

"It's been great seeing how the community is embracing different art projects," said Deborah Burke, Malden's project director for economic development, in a phone interview. Burke said the idea was quickly taken up by the City Council Citizen Engagement Committee, which helped organize the design process in 2009.

Speter, working with students and community members through a series of meetings and group workshops, narrowed the mural's possible subject matter in the fall of 2009, gathering input from meetings held at the Malden Community Center, she said.  

Students from Malden High School, Malden Catholic, and Mystic Valley Regional Charter School will be involved, said  Burke.

Mural11.jpgOne of them, Manny Martinez, (left) 17, a Malden High School junior, said he had been working with Speter since the beginning of the planning phase, when he and other teens were challenged to take on the mural's thematic elements.

"We had to take into consideration every single person in Malden, all age ranges, not just teens," said Martinez during a break from rolling white primer into the porous wall's surface. "As a diverse city, you had to take it into account." 

Funding had to come from creative sources, Speter said, a process that eventually led to more localized donors. The Malden Redevelopment Authority, the Malden Cultural Council, and other Malden groups.

But cash, Speter said, is still tight, so she paired with Pisa Pizza in Malden, which agreed to donate 10 percent of its sales from Wednesday evening, between 4 and 10 p.m., she said.

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