New public art initiative aims to revitalize downtown Worcester
By Kimberly Dunbar
Great cities deserve great art, and Worcester is about to get its share. In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a giant mural of the Blackstone Canal in Kelley Square. Come fall, another large-scale mural will pop up, this time on the side of 20 Franklin St., the old Telegram & Gazette building and future home of Quinsigamond Community College’s downtown campus.
“This is part of a public art initiative from the city’s Public Art Working Group (PAWG) plan,” said Erin Williams, Worcester’s cultural development officer. “PAWG is a group that believes art deserves to be prominent in Worcester.”
In an effort to increase the amount of publicly accessible art in the city, Worcester’s Executive Office of Economic Development created PAWG. PAWG is a group of local citizens and art-lovers who are committed to supporting public art initiatives in the city. A year-and-a-half ago, the group met to catalogue the existing public art, as well as identify locations and opportunities for new public art.
“Art is extremely critical to the city’s future,” said Lisa Drexhage, project manager for the Worcester Business Development Corporation (WBDC). “Public art projects create unique destination points for visitors and residents alike. Through this project and others happening throughout Worcester, our hope is that people will continue to live, work, play and study in the city.”
New Garden Park, Inc., a nonprofit subsidiary of the WBDC dedicated to the environmental cleanup and renovation of 18-20 Franklin St. (known as Allen Court Alley), has donated the wall space for the temporary mural. In collaboration with Worcester’s Office of Cultural Development, PAWG and the Worcester Arts Council ~ which is sponsoring the public projects ~ the team is working to improve the downtown area.
“I believe this mural is an important component to jumpstart the transformation of Allen Court from a drab alley to a more welcoming place,” Drexhage said.
Earlier this year, the group sent a call to local artists for proposals. Susan Champeny, a local artist serving as the advisor on the Allen Court project, said it was a very open theme. “We want art of quality,” she said, adding that the only rule was no commercial advertising. “We want art that celebrates community and connectivity. We left the subject up to the artists because we want their response to our environment.”
According to Williams, the community has been very responsive to the project. “We are getting a lot of inquiries from people who are really enthused or want their building decorated with public art,” she said. “We see this as a catalyst, the spark to ignite other projects.”
At press time, the artists for the Allen Court mural were still being vetted. The chosen artists will begin work on the building in August, with a grand opening of the first installation slated for early September. The goal is to change the mural twice a year.
For more information, visit worcestermass.org/arts-culture-entertainment/public-art.