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South African native picked to create mural for Brockton’s Enso Flats Gallery

A mural by Sophia Ainslie from her solo exhibit at the Kingston Gallery in the South End. (Stewart Clements photo)
A mural by Sophia Ainslie from her solo exhibit at the Kingston Gallery in the South End. (Stewart Clements photo)(Stewart Clements)

After a months-long search, artist Sophia Ainslie was chosen to create a permanent mural in Brockton's Enso Flats Gallery.

One of six applicants -- three from Massachusetts, two from New Hampshire, and one from Maine -- vying for the spot, Ainslie was chosen for her "incredibly original and distinct" work, said Matt Zahler, senior project manager at Trinity Financial, the developer behind the Enso Flats project.

"It was a difficult selection, but we are very pleased that our permanent installation will be created by such a talented artist," Zahler said in a press release. Enso Flats offers artists both living and working space, as part of a $100 million residential and commercial project.

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Ainslie, who grew up in South Africa and now has a studio in Somerville, said she didn't have the exact details worked out for her piece. It's most likely to be big -- about 10 feet high and 40 feet wide, she estimated. And flat.

"It feels like [my paintings] are almost printed," said Ainslie, who lives in Arlington. Yet every painting of hers, she said, comes from the same process of moving forward.

"When I make a mark, I don't allow myself to undo," said Ainslie. "Why would I undo it? What makes it a right mark? What makes it a wrong mark? Why can't it just be a mark?"

"I try to allow it to be, and then work around that," she said later. "So that, for me, is about moving forward."

Ainslie has been surrounded by art since she was born: It was "deep in my blood," she said. Her father, Bill Ainslie, and mother, Sophia Jansen-Schottel, started an art school during the apartheid era in South Africa open to anyone "who had a passion or desire to learn or to make art," she said.

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But she had a different plan for herself.

"I tried to dodge" becoming an artist, she said. She tried to be a social worker, then an actor, but she couldn't find what best suited her until she was 20.

Eventually, at the request of her parents, she gave art a try; she called it the "best decision I ever made."

While the original terms of the Enzo Flats project called for artists to incorporate Brockton's history and culture into the mural, Ainslie said that wasn't her style. Instead she absorbed the colors that illuminated the area around Enso Flats: the purple from the commuter rail, the "rich red and yellow" from the W.B. Mason nearby, and the green from the traffic light and grass. She worked each familiar color into the painting she used for her application, which also included a written statement. She hopes to have her piece up by spring 2016.

"I can see how art can have a powerful effect on society," she said. "Art could bring people together ... by giving voice to individuals."


Ella Torres can be reached at sara.torres@globe.com. Follow her @Ella_RTorres.