Art by Helen Bur and Sam Worthington at the Cabot Theatre in Beverly, MA.
The days are getting shorter and the crisp fall air reminds us all to get outside before the inevitable drop in temperature drives us indoors. One way that you could spend these last few warm days is to check out some of the incredible public art North of Boston.
Public art and street art both reflect and enrich the communities they exist in. Community spaces that display public art have chosen to add cultural meaning and significance to places that may have geographical, social, or historical meaning. They not only add aesthetic value but they engage the community in conversation.
It’s also really cool to look at.
Throughout the North Shore, cities and community organizations have commissioned artists (or given them permission) to make art that will reflect the local stories that these communities deem significant.
Here are some of the best spots to see public and street art on the North Shore.
In the last few years, downtown Lynn has become a regional hotspot for street art. Beyond Walls started its mission in 2017, commissioning artists to create building high works of art to activate underused public spaces, and with each consecutive festival season, the city becomes more and more decorated with street art of all varieties.
Salem’s “El Punto” Neighborhood
Situated in the El Punto neighborhood of Salem (east of Lafayette Street, south of the South River, west of Congress Street, and north of Chase and Leavitt Streets) The Punto Urban Art Museum is a mission-driven social justice art program created by the North Shore CDC. According to their website, the Museum was created to break down the socio-economic barrier between the Point Neighborhood and the rest of Salem and the North Shore through street art.
Over the last few years, Team Haverhill has been busy producing planning public art around the city. Their first initiative – Bradford Rail Trail, oversaw the commissioning of sculptures at the Bradford Rail Trail as an additional attraction to the area. The Bradford Rail Trail is a half-mile path running along the Merrimack River between the Basiliere and the Comeau Bridges.
In addition to the rail trail, they have also been busy with the Team Haverhill Mural project, which has converted boarded-up windows on historic downtown buildings into beautiful works of art.
Methuen Rail Trail
Converted rail-trails have become prime destinations for public art in recent history, inspiring locals and visitors to go for a stroll in once inhospitable industrial parks. Like Haverhill, Methuen also boasts a rail-trail – except that this one has recently been taken over by poets.
The Poets Wall is an ongoing community composition designed by Methuen Arts. They will be having poetry events this fall to commemorate this piece of public art.
Street art is alive and happening in Lawrence, largely in thanks to the efforts of the Elevated Thought and the Essex Arts Center – as both organizations are using street art to employ youth and forge connections between local history, creative process, and the people who live in these communities. This year, the Essex Arts Center launched its Lawrence Mural Project, providing opportunities for young artists while Elevated Thought kicked off their Asset Mapping for Merrimack Valley project.
Newburyport is the home to another public art laced rail-trail North of Boston: the Clipper City Rail Trail. The rail-trail has a variety of figurative, abstract, and interactive sculptures, a mural along a highway underpass, custom signage, an “eco-arts” garden installation by the local Green Artists League, a boardwalk, and a pedestrian bridge.
Castle Hill at the Crane Estate, Ipswich
With the efforts of the Trustees, Public Art is even to be found on beautiful historic landscapes around the North Shore with the new project Art + the Landscape. The most recent installation, Alicja Kwade: TunnelTeller, is at the Crane Estate in Ipswich. Alicja Kwade is a Berlin-based contemporary artist and TunnelTeller is an immersive structure designed to challenge the viewer’s notions of space and perception.
The Cabot Theatre, Beverly
In 2019, the Cabot Theatre in Beverly partnered with Beyond Walls to create two murals on the exterior of the historic building. They received funding from ECCF in the summer of 2019 and the project was finished in August. Helen Bur and Sam Worthington of the U.K. painted one mural, and Alex Senna, of Sao Paulo, Brazil, painted the other.
Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester
Like Nessie in northern Scotland and Champ in Burlington, Gloucester has its own sea serpent myth. Although historical accounts point to the fact that the sea serpent was more likely a narwhal rather than a large snake, the story lives on. To commemorate this local cryptid, the Cape Ann Museum commissioned Chris Williams to create a sculpture of the beast to be displayed outside of the museum.
Over the last few years, Peabody has commissioned local artists for a number of different projects including the electrical boxes, pianos, and a series of murals called “Murals Live.” The Peabody Cultural Collaborative and Opportunity Peabody are to thank for the mural project, which can be seen at various points around the city including South Peabody Liquors.
If you know of some excellent public art not listed here, feel free to drop us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll add it to the list!
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