EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

August 2, 2013

Lessons in art -- and community pride

Teens paint celebrity murals on dreary urban walls


“Kids in under-served populations need to make money when they’re teenagers because they need to contribute to their family’s income,” Costello said. “We’re giving them employment. We’re teaching them art. We’re making them employable.”

Like most public art, the project has several benefactors.

Besides the arts center, Valley Works and Allshouse, who is using his teacher’s salary to make up shortfalls in his supply budget, the mural project’s benefactors include the Merrimack Valley Sandbox Initiative, which donated $500 for supplies, and the city’s Department of Community Development, which is securing permission from landlords to use the sides of their buildings as canvasses.

“We picked out vacant lots we’re trying to fix up and walls that it would be nice to have murals on,” said Art McCabe, the city’s community development manager.

“To me, (the Essex Street lot) was a great lot,’’ he said. “It’s right in the retail area of the city that we’re trying to enhance.”

A few blocks west on Essex Street, the teens recently completed a striking black-and-white portrait of Robert Frost on top of a brilliant bright red background, inscripted with an iconic verse from Frost’s most famous poem, “The Road Not Taken.”

Frost, like Bernstein, had deep Lawrence roots.

Yesterday, the teens swirled around the lot beside the bar and law office as they organized their next project, picking their colors from a dozen or so paint cans and climbing up and down four ladders propped against the wall.

“We want a lot of colors for John Lennon – tie-died, orange, red, purple,” said Davila, the Lawrence High senior. “Bright colors that will bring people in.”

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