In East Boston, six brand-new murals — some located just steps from the harbor — raise awareness about environmental conservation.
Standing tall at the Boston Harbor Shipyard & Marina and the Mary Ellen Welch Greenway, each mural is filled with vibrant colors and sweeping messages about climate change. Together, the paintings touch on issues including rising water levels, plastic pollution, ocean acidification, and biodiversity loss.
HarborArts director Matthew Pollock said the creations are especially urgent as the pandemic rages on and climate change takes its toll.
“This is a community that’s seriously threatened in the moment,” Pollock said. “Now more than ever, we need public art as a way to uplift the community and give people something positive to think about.”
Three of the six East Boston murals have been completed so far, with local artists planning finishing touches for the remaining three by Sunday.
The pieces were commissioned through a partnership between the local HarborArts nonprofit and the international PangeaSeed Foundation, whose Sea Walls public art program is responsible for jump-starting more than 400 murals globally.
The organizations were planning a 10-day festival this month which would have brought together 15 regional and international artists. Due to the pandemic, the main event has been moved to July 2021. The new paintings represent a reimagining of the original plans for the realities of 2020.
Pollock said this month’s initiative gathered some of “Boston’s most incredible artists.” They include Silvia López Chavez, Julia “JULZ” Roth and Cedric “Vise1” Douglas, Josie Morway, IMAGINE, Sophy Tuttle, and teens from the nonprofit Artists for Humanity.
Chavez’s “Rise” mural, for example, shows a woman caressing a North Atlantic whale while pushing away plastic debris and other pollutants that hurtle toward the creature.
Chavez said the Boston Shipyard painting puts forth a forward-looking but realistic message about the community’s closest water body.
“Once the plastic is in the water, it starts breaking down as microbes, and it starts getting eaten by birds and fish. Eventually, it enters our food system," the artist said. "This shows that. It tells a story that is very green, but the colors and the actions of this woman are also hopeful.”
Artists for Humanity cofounder Jason Talbot said the teens' Greenway mural will showcase the Boston skyline surrounded by various wildlife.
“This project helps us continue our efforts in protecting the environment, as well as educating our young people to become future leaders in conservation and environmentalism," he said. "It’s going to be creative people with creative solutions that help us move forward. We want artists to add narratives to the issues we face every day and help people be inspired. And we need respect for each other and for the planet.”
Diti Kohli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @ditikohli_