‘Mural Crew’ celebrates 25th anniversary

The mural was painted on the side of the Roxbury Center for the Performing Arts.
The mural was painted on the side of the Roxbury Center for the Performing Arts. Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Alex Salamanca could tell it had been some time since Mayor Martin J. Walsh last picked up a paint brush to create a work of art.

Crouching next to Walsh on a paint-spattered canvas laid on the ground outside the Roxbury Center for the Performing Arts, the 17-year-old Fenway High School student offered the mayor advice on how to execute a proper brush stroke.

Salamanca was slightly nervous Walsh would mess up. But as the mayor applied a thin line of white paint to the ballet shoe of a towering dancer displayed on the building’s wall, Salamanca breathed a sigh of relief.


“He did great,” Salamanca said Thursday, as Walsh stepped away to greet a crowd. “He outlined it really well.”

The painting lesson marked the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the “Mayor’s Mural Crew,” a revolving group of young artists from area schools who for years have worked alongside professionals to design and paint large-scale murals around Boston.

On Thursday, beneath the heat of the August sun, more than a dozen students who are part of this year’s program worked diligently, brushes in hand, applying a smattering of blue, brown, yellow, and orange paint to the performing arts center’s facade, to create a scene of dancers in varying poses.

“The mural crew has been hugely supported,” said director Heidi Schork, who started the Mayor’s Mural Crew in 1991, under Mayor Ray Flynn. “At this point, I think we are an institution in the city, so that it’s kind of expected if you’re driving down a main drag somewhere in Boston that you’re going to see a group of kids covered in paint on a scaffolding.”

Schork has overseen the creation of hundreds of murals citywide since the group first launched, she said. This summer, students helped to create a total of four murals — including one of Ray Bolger, a Dorchester native who played the Scarecrow in “The Wizard of OZ” — and to touch up a fifth that had been vandalized.


The mural of dancers at the performing arts center on Blue Hill Avenue will replace one that was first painted by members of the group back in 1995, but that had fallen into disrepair.

Students who participate in the program are paid for the hard work that they do. For $10 an hour, they spend their summer days not inside their homes, hunched over computers, or staring at their smartphones, but trying their hand at being budding artists.

Fiona Duckworth, 17, and a rising senior at the Winsor School, has been part of the mural crew for three summers. She never fancied herself an artist, but the opportunity to be part of the city’s fabric was enticing. The mural of the dancers is the eighth she has worked on.

“I like to see the finished project,” she said. “I like going by on the bus and pointing to my friends, ‘Oh, I painted that mural.’”

As students continued to stand atop the scaffolding, and dab the wall with a mixture of colors from the buckets that stood along the sidewalk, Walsh commended their efforts.

“I think we need to do more of this in the city,” he said, after peeling off the mural crew’s signature army-green T-shirt, which he wore over his shirt and tie. “They’re very proud of the work they did this summer, and it opens up a whole new world to them, a whole new potential.”


Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.