Bringing vitality and opportunity to our city through the arts

Lowell’s landscape will change dramatically. This month, for just two weeks, eight muralists, from Lowell and around the globe, will produce large-scale works of art in city neighborhoods through the creative placemaking initiative ArtUp Lowell.

Collaborative civic art initiatives like ArtUp Lowell can transform public spaces, create welcoming environments for locals and visitors, and be an important source of city economic development and tourism promotion. Over 10 years, Chicago’s Millennium Park generated $1.4 billion in visitor spending, nearly a 3:1 return on the initial $500 million investment made from public and private funds.

Beyond economic benefits, placemaking and other types of public art projects empower a city’s residents and provide opportunities to engage young people in making art and beautifying their neighborhoods.

According to an article from the National League of Cities, “Areas that are well-lit and have public art or murals attract pedestrians, bicyclists and even vehicle traffic, leading to safer, more vibrant communities.”

In 2019, Project LEARN and over 30 local partners built on Lowell Community Health Center’s successful ArtUp program and launched ArtUp Lowell, a youth and place-based arts initiative that creates dynamic and culturally relevant art in public spaces to engage and celebrate Lowell’s diversity. communities.

That summer, ArtUp Lowell launched its era of placemaking with Jack’s Flags, a project in Kerouac Park that engaged more than 800 students and 14 teachers in creating a temporary art exhibit.

Over the past three years, ArtUp Lowell has become a citywide coalition of local artists, business owners, and dedicated community members whose mission is to increase civic engagement in the arts, celebrate the city’s cultural vitality, and increase foot traffic and spending in restaurants and small. businesses near where the murals are located.

“Creating a vibrant visual experience for residents and visitors puts Lowell in the category of other cities that invest in the arts and embrace their diverse histories and show pride in their community,” said James Grace, executive director of Arts & Business Council of Greater. Boston, which now owns Western Avenue Studios. “Murals have the power to engage and inspire.”

As Lowell began to emerge from the initial waves of the COVID-19 pandemic in the fall of 2021, the coalition began looking for ways to reinvigorate the city’s economic recovery and strengthen Lowell’s reputation as a center for vibrant, multicultural art that celebrates history. different community.

Thanks to the expertise of Massachusetts-based non-profit Beyond Walls and local production management company BRM Production Management, ArtUp Lowell entered its next phase and was able to bring two large-scale murals by international muralists, David Zayas and Evaristo Angurria in downtown.

Then, last March, over 200 artists applied to the call for art, and an 18-member selection committee identified finalists based on the artists’ past experience at scale and their connection to Lowell’s diverse population.

Representation matters. When young people see their culture artfully represented in large-scale public art, it encourages them to get involved in civic spaces and community building.

Growing this year’s project from two to seven large-scale murals was no small task. Thanks to a partnership between businesses, local arts organizations and nonprofits, educational institutions, civic leaders, local philanthropist and arts advocate Nancy Donahue and a matching grant from MassDevelopment’s Commonwealth Places grant program, ArtUp Lowell will collectively invest over 250 $.0002 for murals.

New partners this year—such as UMass Lowell, Middlesex Community College, Eliot Church, and the Coalition for a Better Acre—have helped ArtUp Lowell bring dynamic and culturally responsive public art to our neighborhoods and college campuses.

The second round of murals comes at an opportune time for the city, following the resurgence of the Lowell Folk Festival and the launch of Mosaic Lowell’s cultural blueprint. Under the leadership of the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and Mosaic Lowell, local arts and cultural organizations will showcase artistic talent and creativity through VIBE Fest, a month-long celebration of arts and creativity that begins Saturday, August 20 , in Curation 250 in Millir no. 5.

Check out the ArtUp Lowell page on the Like Lowell website for more information on events and murals.

Many thanks to the City, National Park, Historical Commission, Mosaic Lowell, Greater Lowell Community Foundation, Lowell’s talented community of artists and our many partners for their vision and contributions. If you would like to contribute to the effort in any way, email Autumn Kleiner at [email protected].

This column was written by LZ Nunn and Michael Gallagher, with Adam Baacke, UMass Lowell Chancellor Julie Chen, Carl Howell, JuanCarlos Rivera and Middlesex Community College President Philip Sisson.

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