Bringing vitality and opportunity to our city through the arts

Lowell’s landscape is about to change dramatically. This month, over the course of just two weeks, eight muralists from Lowell and around the world will produce large-scale works of art in city neighborhoods through the creative placemaking initiative ArtUp Lowell.

Collaborative civic arts initiatives like ArtUp Lowell can transform public spaces, create a welcoming environment for locals and visitors, and be an important source of city economic development and tourism promotion. Over a 10-year period, Chicago’s Millennium Park generated $1.4 billion in visitor spending, a nearly 3:1 return on the initial $500 million investment made by public and private funds.

Beyond the economic benefits, placemaking and other types of public art projects empower city residents and provide opportunities for youth to get involved in making art and beautifying their neighborhoods.

According to an article by the National League of Cities, “Areas that are well-lit and have public art or murals attract pedestrians, bicyclists and even auto traffic, leading to safer and more vibrant communities.”

In 2019, Project LEARN and more than 30 local partners built on the Lowell Community Health Center’s successful ArtUp program, and launched ArtUp Lowell, a youth arts and place-based initiative that creates dynamic and culturally relevant art in public spaces. Community.

That summer, ArtUp Lowell launched its placemaking era with Jack’s Flag, a project in Kerouac Park that engaged more than 800 students and 14 teachers to create a temporary art exhibit.

Over the past three years, ArtUp Lowell has become a citywide coalition of local artists, business owners and dedicated community members whose goal is to increase civic engagement in the arts, celebrate the city’s cultural vibrancy, and increase foot traffic and spending at restaurants. Businesses near where the murals are located.

“Creating a vibrant visual experience for residents and visitors puts Lowell among other cities that invest in the arts and embrace their diverse history and demonstrate pride in their community,” said James Grace, executive director of the Arts and Business Council of Greater. Boston, which is now owned by Western Avenue Studios. “Murals have the power to engage and inspire.”

As Lowell began to emerge from the initial waves of the COVID-19 pandemic in the fall of 2021, the coalition began exploring ways to jumpstart the city’s economic recovery and expand Lowell’s reputation as a vibrant, multicultural arts center that celebrates diverse community stories. .

Thanks to the expertise of Massachusetts-based placemaking non-profit organization, Beyond Walls, and local product management company, BRM Product Management, ArtUp Lowell entered its next phase and was able to bring two large murals by international muralists, David Zayas and Evaristo Anguria. Downtown.

Then, this past March, more than 200 artists applied to a call for art, and an 18-member selection committee identified finalists based on the artists’ past experience at scale and their connection to Lowell’s diverse population.

Representation is important. When young people see their culture skillfully represented in large-scale public art, it encourages them to engage in civic space and community building.

Ramping up this year’s project from two to seven large murals was no small feat. Thanks to matching grants from businesses, local arts organizations and nonprofits, educational institutions, civic leaders, local philanthropist and arts advocate Nancy Donahue, and MassDevelopment’s Commonwealth Places grant program, ArtUp Lowell will collectively invest $250,0202000.

New partners this year — such as UMass Lowell, Middlesex Community College, Eliot Church and the Coalition for a Better Acre — have helped ArtUp Lowell bring dynamic, culturally responsive public art to our neighborhoods and college campuses.

The second round of murals comes at an opportune time for the city following the re-emergence of the Lowell Folk Festival and the launch of Mosaic Lowell’s draft cultural plan. Led by the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and Mosaic Lowell, local arts and cultural organizations will showcase artistic talent and creativity through VIBE Fest, a month-long celebration of art and creativity, which begins Saturday, August 20. , in Curation 250 at Mill No. 5.

Check out the ArtUp Lowell page on the Like Lowell website for more information on events and murals.

Many thanks to the City, National Parks, Historical Commission, Mosaic Lowell, Greater Lowell Community Foundation, Lowell’s talented artist community, and our many partners for their vision and contributions. If you would like to contribute to the effort in any way, email Autumn Kleiner at [email protected]

This column was written by LZ Nunn and Michael Gallagher with Adam Bakke, UMass Lowell Chancellor Julie Chen, Carl Howell, JuanCarlos Rivera and Middlesex Community College President Philip Sisson.

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