HarborArts Paint Murals at the PJK

A smiling, pink daisy is painted over a manhole cover on the Saratoga Street sidewalk entrance of the Patrick J. Kennedy School. It is one of eight stencil graffiti murals created by New Bedford artist, Tom Bob, over the past three weeks. In partnership with HarborArts, which creates public art installations to encourage dialogue in the community, Bob brings mundane items around the school to life with whimsical characters.

“Tom Bob creates joy and happiness in everyday objects found around us,” described Matt Pollock, of HarborArts. “We want kids to feel like it’s their place to learn and have fun.”

Patrick J. Kennedy School students and staff with Representative Adrian Madaro, and Felipe Ortiz and Matt Pollock, of HarborArts, sitting around a daisy painted by Tom Bob.
Felipe Ortiz and Matt Pollock, of HarborArts, posing in front of a mural of a ladybug and elephant painted by Tom Bob at the Patrick J. Kennedy School.

An elephant with a long, winding trunk and a large peanut are painted on gas pipes and a meter on an outside brick wall. Beside it is a cheery ladybug with black pipes for antennae.

Inside, a monkey is climbing on a tree that is painted on a pipe, and wall-mounted lights are utilized for butterfly antennae. Bob transforms radiators into an ear of corn being eaten by a child, and an accordion being played by a boy. An electrical switch panel is also the belly of a robot.

“It’s such a cool way to adaptively repurpose ordinary things. It livens the school environment. The kids are talking about it. What a cool way to engage young people and inspire them,” beamed State Representative Adrian Madaro, who would like to see similar projects implemented in all schools to stimulate students’ minds.

Bob held workshops and drawing sessions with 3rd grade students. The world-renowned urban artist guided students in interpreting what objects could be transformed into.

“It’s fun. We’re getting kids to think outside the box to reimagine their school environment and the objects around them,” Pollock commented.

Third grade student, Angelina, who participated in the workshops, shared that walking into school and seeing Bob’s murals brings her joy.

“They’re beautiful. I feel good when I see them. My favorite one is the monkey,” Angelina smiled. “It’s fun. I love school.”

HarborArts has collaborated with five other East Boston schools (Donald McKay School, East Boston Early Childcare Center, Mario Umana Academy, Dante Alighieri Montessori School, and Manassah E. Bradley School) welcoming local and international artists from countries such as Columbia, Hawaii, Trinidad, Jamaica, and Mexico.

“HarborArts has been doing an incredible job beautifying public spaces across the neighborhood,” commended Representative Madaro. “We’ve always had a vibrant arts culture in East Boston, but I feel like these public murals are making it known a lot more.”

Pollock revealed that in the late summer, a massive mural will be painted in a prominent surprise location in Central Square, in partnership with East Boston Social Centers and East Boston Main Streets, a network dedicated to revitalizing and rebuilding a sustainable and healthy commercial district.

“It’s going to represent the story of Eastie – the vibrant cultural makeup of our community,” declared Pollock. “Eastie has always been a tight community. We want to see that reflected in the visual landscape. That’s why it’s important to bring murals around the neighborhood.”

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