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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Rosales

New colorful mural welcomes people to Somerville

Published for The Somerville Times July 10 2019 Issue

Click here for newspaper copy.

Yellow swings from Chuckie Harris Park, pink triple-decker houses, blue bikes, Old Power House monument, Legoland giraffe at Assembly Row, and a “Welcome to Somerville” sign were painted on the new mural site along Lombardi Underpass last July 7 to create a new colorful welcome to Somerville.

The mural was brought to East Somerville by Federal Realty Investment Trust in collaboration with Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) after the old vinyl mural created by James Weinberg started to strip down due to weather conditions.

Local illustrator and designer, Meagan O’Brien was hired to do the job after her work with East Somerville Main Streets. However, the 250 feet long and 17 feet high site was a new challenge for her. “It was all new to me. I’ve done small scale murals before that’s like five by five foot but I’ve never done anything that’s 250 feet long,” O’Brien said. She hired four more local artists to tackle the project. The artists lived so close to the site that they biked over to work.

The team also coordinated with Somerville Main Streets to organize a community mural day last June 21. Around 20 overjoyed volunteers, including a seven-year-old girl painted bushes, bricks and a sailboat that day.

“It was really important to me to have the community involved in the murals where they could pass this mural and be able to say, ‘Hey, I painted those bricks on the wall at Assembly’ or ‘I helped paint in the sailboat that’s in the middle,’” O’Brien said. “This has been a really great experience to work with the community, and have that come together and let people be a part of it.”

The process of creating a design ended up being personal to O’Brien. She brought the culture of brightly colored houses from her travels in Central America to the mural because she wanted to brighten up Somerville, especially during long winters. She also depicts her favorite events and places she’s experienced in Somerville.

“There are triple-decker houses which I lived in throughout Somerville for about 10 years,” O’Brien said. “So they’re very near and dear to me, and I think to a lot of people. Then it also shows the Armory, which is the art center, and I’ve done and gone to a lot of events there.”

The Lombardi Underpass has a stoplight at the end of the road which allows well over 150 people in their cars to show their support to the team. O’Brien said it was the best part in the whole process. People roll down their windows, honk their horns, give a thumbs up, or have a quick conversation with her about the great work being done for the community.

“It’s really important to me to use bright colors, to be as fun as possible,” O’Brien said “I just want people to smile when they see it and really feel this sense of community and diversity that exists in the mural.”

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