HarborArts, Eastie Farm Help International Artists Create Murals That Transform School Walls

At the Bradley Elementary School last Thursday, and last Friday at the Mario Umana Academy, students and teachers celebrated the completion of several murals by international artists that transformed the walls of the two schools into works of art.

HarborArts, the local premiere public art initiative dedicated to bringing local, national and international artists to the East Boston region, recently teamed up with Eastie Farm to launch the new public art project, “Harvest”.

The new program brought renowned international and local artists to paint a series of large-scale murals around urban farming and food justice at both the Bradley and Umana.

“In a world where our future is uncertain due to the increased threat of climate change, food insecurity, and environmental injustice, it’s easy to feel powerless,” said Matt Pollock, Director of HarborArts, “Together, we are painting a new series of educational murals that inspire people to take action with local climate initiatives. In coastal communities like East Boston, the preservation of open space is paramount to building a resilient community. Eastie Farm is doing so by transforming unused and abused spaces into urban farms that grow food, build community, and foster environmental stewardship.”

Noted Colombian artists, Gleo and GRIS ONE, alongside emerging Boston muralist YennyCreate worked on the murals at the two schools over the course of the past month. 

Gleo painted a large-scale mural on the Border Street facade of the Umana, while GRIS ONE and YennyCreate painted murals that activated the walls of the Bradley School, including a 100-foot retaining wall of the school facing Faywood Avenue.

“This has been one of the most organic and empowering applications of academic concepts applied to real world issues,” said Tommy Simmons, Grade-Level Leader and ELA/Math Dual Language Teacher at Umana. “Our students are starting to take ownership and pride for our school and our community garden, bringing a greater sense of joy to the classroom.”

After the first series of murals commissioned by HarborArts through a partnership with Boston Public Schools in 2021, Pollock said HarborArts was engaged by BPS to continue to bring more large-scale murals to campuses in Eastie.

Pollock said throughout the spring of 2022, HarborArts and Eastie Farm worked diligently to engage the Eastie community in this year’s mural effort.

The program began in Eastie earlier this spring, with students at the Umana and Bradley School participating in hands-on urban farming programming and art workshops.

Over at Eastie Farm students at the schools engaged weekly in outdoor activities with educators, activists and artists covering a wide range of farming and creative exercises. The first class took place in early May, where students planted seedlings of the “Three Sisters” — Corn, Squash, and Beans — a method of planting a triplet of biodiverse crops with a symbiotic relationship, originally used by First Nations people of what is now North America. In the following weeks, students explored differences between processed and organic food using drawing, discovered the importance of pollinators and open space through storytelling and performance, and ideated on mural concepts with painting and watercolor.

The three artists then began painting three monumental public artworks inspired by student input during the workshops.

The goal of the project is to empower students to become active environmental stewards, as well as communicate critical issues and express ideas creatively and emotionally, using the universal language of public art.

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