Through partnerships with corporations, local businesses, government agencies, civic organizations and donors, Beyond Walls, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit, is advancing an ambitious effort to galvanize the city of Lynn by using art to encourage visitation and spark economic vitality. This bold initiative —which includes art and lighting installations and a series of events staged throughout the downtown area— is designed to showcase Lynn as a vibrant, multi-cultural community and a welcoming destination for visitors and a new generation of residents.
Alfred Wilson, a former technology executive, was inspired to create Beyond Walls after visiting the Wynwood area of Miami, a long overlooked urban district, and seeing how public art helped to reinvigorate the neighborhood and attract attention and investment.
According to Wilson, Wynwood’s success influenced his decision to leave his job as executive director of East Coast sales and operations for a Chicago-based start-up and launch Beyond Walls. “Community groups, artists and organizers recognized the same potential in Wynwood that I see in Lynn,” sayd Wilson. “At Wynwood, they used art and culture to jumpstart the economy and create a sense of place.”
Today, Wynwood is a bustling eight-block district that is home to locally-run businesses, cafes and restaurants, and both market-rate and subsidized housing. “The combination of art and commerce attracts millennials, families, and empty-nesters. I believe the Wynwood model can be replicated in Lynn, and I’m not alone,” says Wilson.
Lynn mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy sees Beyond Walls as a natural extension of efforts already underway by the city’s burgeoning arts and cultural organizations, area businesses and restaurants to attract attention from well beyond the North Shore. “A creative venture of this size and scale has never been attempted in Lynn before. I believe Beyond Walls will spark change that is meaningful and measurable.”
In addition to the mayor, the project has been endorsed by governor Charlie Baker, congressman Seth Moulton, secretary of housing and economic development Jay Ash and state senator Thomas McGee. State representatives Brendan Crighton and Dan Cahill are also backing the effort.
Senator McGee believes that residents and visitors alike will appreciate the many Beyond Walls lighting installations that, along with the murals, will enhance the heart of the city. “Outdoor lighting is a great amenity. These colorful installations will encourage people to spend more time visiting downtown Lynn, not only to enjoy the art but to frequent the businesses, restaurants and cafes located throughout the district. ”
Beyond Walls is working in partnership with Lynn’s Neighborhood Development Associates, Inc., the nonprofit arm of the Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development which focuses on revitalization. State and local organizations such as MASSDevelopment, the Lynn Economic Advancement & Development (LEAD) Team, EDIC/Lynn, and the Lynn Museum and Historical Society have also offered support and assistance.
The first phase of Beyond Walls programming, which will launch in July, includes 10 large-scale murals which will be painted on downtown buildings by local and international artists representing Lynn’s diverse cultural communities. Dynamic LED lighting installations will illuminate MBTA underpasses in Central Square and on Washington and Market Streets, and 12 vintage neon signs will brighten buildings throughout the downtown. A large-scale sculpture featuring a jet engine produced by GE in 1942 will be located in Lynn’s downtown Cultural District will pay homage to the city’s industrial roots.
In addition to the public art exhibits, Beyond Walls will sponsor a number of events including a Mural Festival, July 13-July 23, a presentation by participating artists at The Lynn Museum on July 15, an Artist Flow Yoga class led by Soul City Yoga on July 16 on the waterfront at Heritage State Park, a July 19 talk at RAW Art Works by artist Caleb Neelon, co-author of History of American Graffiti which traces the evolution of this most influential art form. Neelon will be joined by Cey Adams, creative director of Def Jam Records who designed album covers for the label’s recording artists including the Beastie Boys, Mary J. Blige, LL Cool J, and Jay Z. The largest event, the Beyond Walls ‘Rock The Block’ Party on July 22, will feature live music, artists at work, gourmet food trucks, and craft beer. All programs are free and open to the public.