Motif Monday- how about monumental murals at O’Maley by art school grads that were former alumni

The O’Maley Innovation Middle School campus setting is rather bucolic. There’s a line of apple trees that still bear fruit and suggest the original farm, playing fields are stepped down surrounded by marsh and pond, Dogtown stretches along one edge, and Pole Hill rises up across the way. Community volunteers and students have created lovely decorative gardens. Yes, the track needs work and the playing field could be upgraded to turf like Gloucester High School’s New Balance-Newell Stadium. But it’s a beautiful spot to walk or catch a game. Ed Tedesco designed O’Maley in 1971. Although I believe the architect was quite sensitive to the setting, I understand how people criticize the exterior as harsh, or worse. “It feels like a prison!” exclaim some (and others joke. It is a middle school afterall.) You know what I see on the exterior when I come to O’Maley? Beautiful walls. Interesting shapes. Expansive public space ready for art and ideas.

O’Maley walls, photos from 2015

ideal canvas for murals by former alums now emerging artists art school grads - O'Maley Innovation Middle School Gloucester Mass- Feb 3 2016 ©c ryan_100917 (13)

You can’t judge a book by its cover. OR can you? O’Maley has the potential for its shell to match the creative arts and legacy at its core. There are stunning historic murals from the 1930s and 40s in the Commons. The arts curriculum is valued and celebrated. The arts teachers are amazing. If there is any school in Massachusetts that sings out arts and legacy, let it be here. Monumental public art and street art abound in Gloucester.

Parsons Street before, after, and after

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public art in Gloucester, MA and context collages

 

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Py$eMoNeY117 21st Century Orphans, Gloucester, MA, Skribble Fish – graffiti art – not street art

And not just for flat surfaces. Artists have suggested creative responses to Americord’s striated surface like a piano keys mural along the wall (a motif you may have seen elsewhere); others proposed a changing light installation when the cultural district designation was underway. 

Stephanie Benenson’s temporary installation Harbor Voices at City Hall

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Street art has become big business. Cities and towns around the world vie for renowned muralists in a competitive commercialized market with varying degrees of success.

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I vote Former Alumni

O’Maley Innovation Middle School has the perfect walls for showcasing creative voices of former alumni who are art school grads (or currently enrolled)– professionally trained and inspired to leave a mark. Ever since the dynamite 18UP and Under 30 exhibition, supporters hoped to catalyze possibilities for these emerging artists. Murals taken to this scale warrant investments of $15,000 per artist per wall.

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Jason Burroughs https://www.jasonburroughsgallery.com/

just a few of the grads…Chris Budrow | Kate BresnahanJason Burroughs | Lexi Chipperini |Jon Cooney | Jeff Cluett | James Curcuru | Nicole Dahlmer | Leon Doucette | Alessia LoGrasso | Avery McNiff | Micah O’Conner| Mary Sullivan

Before I saw walls of possibility. I still see that, but now I imagine specific artists and I hope you do, too. There are plenty of walls to go around at O’Maley.

 

 

a few more international street art mural examples

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Perfect! Toodeloos! is perfect sponsor for The Princess Bride HarborWalk summer cinema tonight

Toodeloos! and Island Art and Hobby at 142 Main Street is year round fun. They’ve consolidated two long standing creative and well curated independent local stores together into one space: both a fabulous local toy store and a professional art supply shop.

 

Toodeloos! is between the Birdseye and Winslow Homer HarborWalk story moment markers, and a short jaunt to the summer cinema at I4C2.

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gentleman reading the Winslow Homer plaque on the HarborWalk trail today, Gloucester MA
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James Owen Calderwood and Cape Ann Art Haven murals are such a great pass through on Parsons between Main and Rogers (across the street from Toodeloos!)

And from the HarborWalk marker at St. Peter’s park, it’s easy to check out the new murals by Danny Diamond at Cape Ann Brewery 11 Rogers Street!

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HarborWalk Summer Cinema 2017 poster

 

street art Gloucester: 21st Century Orphans by Danny Diamond graffiti writer and mural artist

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There’s a monumental outdoor mural behind Prince Insurance at 3 Washington Street, Gloucester, Massachusetts, that changes every year. It’s sited on private property.

Thanks to the Greeke family who own Prince Insurance and let him have at it, artist and writer Danny Diamond has expressed his ideas and showcased his can command on this same outside wall annually since 2011.

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My favorite sight line is from Middle Street heading to the Captain Lester S. Wass American Legion Post 3 and the Joan of Arc sculpture by Anna Hyatt Huntington. It’s in a tight spot, and so is the kid with the green, green eyes staring back from the latest mural.

Diamond is using his talents to bring awareness to homelessness and the economy. Here’s an excerpt from his statement about 21st Century Orphans: “The windfall of green-backs that flies from my letters gives way to dingy news-print and beggars’ placards–this orphaned child’s currency. It’s rarely discussed, in our scenic little fishing town, that the homeless population has increased in Massachusetts by 40% since 2007, even as the national average was in decline. This in part due to the fact that the cost of living here in Mass is among the highest in the country; the cost of housing continues to increase now that the market has come back, and there is no relief in sight… Fifteen percent (over half a million) of our children here in the Bay state live in poverty; of the over seventeen-thousand homeless people here, thirty-eight percent are children.” – Danny Diamond, 2016

A Gloucester native, Diamond is busy with commercial art and commissions on both coasts.  I had a chance to ask him more about his art and writing after I did a post about the sea monster fence he painted. He brushed off the street artist description: “I consider myself a graffiti-writer and sometimes a mural-artist, but not a “street-artist” (semantic distinction).”  I asked him about Gloucester connections and if he went to the high school. Did any teachers influence him? He wrote back swiftly:

I studied art under Jackie Underwood, who was “Jackie Kapp” at the time, as well as theatre and set-design with Krista Cowan and Kim Trigilio. I went on to earn a cum laude BA in English Lit and Creative Writing at UMass Boston, class of ’06… I spent a lot of time at Artspace on Center St. as a kid, and so Gloucester’s sub-cultural grandmaster Shep Abbott had a big effect on me by bringing punk rock and mural art into downtown. I was mentored in the world of graffiti art by the late Jed Richardson of Manhattan who was a major figure in the NYC subway-train art movement of the 1980’s; he moved to Gloucester in 2001 or so and remained here until his passing in September of ’09… ” 

Diamond created a tribute chalk mural to his mentor at Minglewood Tavern. I worked in New York and saw first hand the 1980 era kings (and not so kings) of subway and club graffiti. I didn’t know Jed Richardson’s work and wondered if Diamond had an image to share for this post.

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artist Jed Richardson c.2008 (photo from artist Danny Diamond)

I also thought about the owners who turned over their wall for Diamond’s art. I learned that the building is owned by Peter Greeke who founded Prince Insurance. Aha! A creative family that understood and allows Danny Diamond the use of a large wall to practice and express his art. The Prince Insurance company is on Washington Street between Middle and Main and directly across from the Legion. It is a second generation family business that has specialized  in personal insurance for more than 35 years. It’s now co-owned by sisters, Melissa Moseley and Wendy Prendergast. A third sister, fashion designer Jennifer Greeke, operates Harpy Fashion out of the back office. The Prince Insurance storefront stands out with such original picture window displays.These windows are an entire family affair. Melissa doesn’t remember a time before the windows. Their mother creates them; Jen has made clothing, sculpted papier-mâché  creatures and mermaids. “Of course because of the community we  live in, over time artistic customers and friends joined in…like Richard Harding and the built boat. They’re just a lot of fun.”   Prince Insurance has a beautiful new website.

I hoped Danny Diamond had a record of his devoted wall mural project, which he obliterates and repaints every year. He did. Photographs below are from Diamond or his website, www.skribblefish.com.  His Instagram is @pyse117.  I added one showing a work in progress he is  completing for a new restaurant opening in Salem in February and other local commissions.

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