FALL RIVER — The city is getting a lot more colorful and Viva Fall River couldn’t be happier.
The nonprofit community organization is sponsoring the painting of three large murals in and around downtown Fall River and invited the community to a “View and Chew” on Friday — an opportunity to see local and international artists at work and learn from one another to treat food truck.
On Pocasset Street, first Herald News Building has been splashed at street level with vibrant colors and patterns by local artist Greg Pennisten. Three floors up, where the newspaper’s logo once greeted visitors crossing the Braga Bridge from Somerset, Portuguese artist Diogo Machado, aka Add Fuel, had it covered; he was standing in a boom lift, painting the wall in a pattern reminiscent of Portuguese tiles.
Patti Rego, executive director of Viva Fall River, said the muralists create art that exudes the city’s culture. “They do it in a way that preserves tradition in the neighborhood but tries to bring some life to the neighborhood and involve the community,” she said.
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Viva Fall River is working with the Fall River Arts and Culture Coalition and nonprofit Beyond Walls to install the murals. FRACC is a collaborative, membership-based organization dedicated to promoting arts and culture in the city to create a vibrant, inclusive and sustainable creative economy.
Beyond Walls vice president Philip Fagan said the muralists are working to tight schedules and tighter budgets — giving artists two weeks to complete their work.
“Our mission is to enable space to empower communities,” Fagan said.
“Preserving the character of the city”
The old Herald News Building is now owned and occupied by Potter’s Printing, a family owned custom print shop that puts designs on everything from socks to shot glasses. Your building itself will now be vividly decorated.
Penniston, originally from Swansea, stood in a scissor lift painting the exterior of a building that once housed the newspaper’s printing press. Dots, flowers, swirls of color came out of his spray cans.
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“Visually, it’s based on old block-print patterns of fabric that were made in a factory that used to be just down the street,” Penniston said, referring to the American Printing Co., which operated south of the city in the 19th and early 20th centuries Anawan Street prospered. “Blockprint patterns from the early 1900s – just take these and recycle, make them much larger, in keeping with the character of the city and the things that were made here.”
“It’s really beautiful. It highlights an area that’s really kind of blah and makes it a little different,” said State MP Alan Silvia, watching the masters at work. “The tile is a Portuguese tile that’s everywhere popular – in the hallways and houses of Portugal, these tiles are everywhere. But now it kind of brings the culture here.”
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Cultural exchange with Colombia
A short distance away, at the back of the Doran Community School, across from the Broadway Extension, Montreal artist Kevin Ledo and a team painted another mural with striking, bright patches of paint and an image of a smiling young girl’s face surveying the area.
Fagan said the girl pictured is a Doran student and the mural is part of a project involving non-profit groups One Blue Sky Project and aptART.
“It’s a cultural exchange between the kids there and the kids in Tierra Bomba, Colombia, which is next to Cartagena,” Rego said.
“They’re actually going to have interactions over Zoom where they’re talking about their culture, their history, sports they like to play, foods they like to eat,” Fagan said, “and then the artist creates a mural there that based on these interactions.”
The murals are funded by grants and donations to an ongoing crowdfunding campaign — in exchange, Rego says, the city gets livelier spaces with beautiful public artworks claiming those spaces. “View and Chew” was a way to bring people closer to the art as it was made.
“These events are for the community and we want them to celebrate and see how cool this is and how it’s done,” Rego said.
US Rep. Jake Auchincloss was one of the parishioners who attended the event. “Public art is one of the most impactful public investments you can make in creating places,” he said. “In public places like train stations, but also in areas you want to make more walkable…and also help local artists and makers.”
Rego noted that drivers passing by on Interstate 195 get a colorful glimpse of Fall River public art as they come or go with the Viva Fall River mural east of the Government Center and the new Portuguese tile mural west of it. And she said plans are in the works for more murals next year.
“We’ve never been known for our artwork in Fall River, but now they’re bringing that in,” said Silvia. “It changes what some people would think of Fall River. … It changes that perception and makes a big difference.”
To donate to the crowdfunding campaign, visit https://www.mightycause.com/story/Vivamurals.
Dan Medeiros can be reached at email@example.com. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Herald News today.