Patterned Behavior, a 100-plus-foot-long vivid mural painted by local artist Silvia Lopez Chavez, will remain for another year on a stretch of the Charles River Esplanade west of the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge. Completed in Summer 2017, the mural has brightened the days of thousands of bicyclists, runners, and pedestrians, and was set to be painted over this year, inviting graffiti back to a plain wall. But because of a permit extension from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), the mural will remain until July 18, 2019.
“Patterned Behavior is a highly visible representation of the Esplanade Association’s commitment to introduce new audiences to the Charles River Esplanade through engaging public art and musical performances throughout the three-mile stretch of riverside green space,” said Michael Nichols, Executive Director of the Esplanade Association.
Lopez Chavez said the site where her mural is is one of her favorite spots along the river, and she was excited when she was first asked to submit a design for it. She said the first step in the process was to go to the site, spend some time there, and see how the space is utilized. She went during different times of the day and the week for several weeks getting inspiration from the area.
Over 40 volunteers prepped the walls, and one of the bike lanes even had to be closed during the process. Lopez Chavez said that several of her artist friends helped with the painting and assisted in other ways throughout the process. She said people would come up and ask how long it would be up for while they were still painting it.
She said that she is so excited that the mural is “bringing in an element of surprise and joy in people’s day,” and that so many people have told her that it enhances the space and makes them feel more welcome.
From a very young age, Lopez Chavez knew she wanted to be an artist. She said she was lucky to have a family that supported her. “They really believed I could do anything I wanted to do,” she said. Though she wasn’t sure exactly what she wanted to do, she began taking formal drawing and painting classes when she was seven years old. “I loved drawing and painting,” she said.
A lot of people want this mural to be permanent, Lopez Chavez said, and have suggested a program where that section the Esplanade is curated for different murals every few years.
“Spaces like this really make a difference,” Lopez Chavez said. She said that instead of the space being filled with “unwelcome messages,” having the mural remain gives local artists a space to “make a beautiful piece of art.”
“I’m just thrilled,” said Kate Gilbert, Executive Director of Now + There, the public art curator that brought the mural to the esplanade. “It’s become a destination on the esplanade.”
Gilbert said that the renewal of this mural encapsulates all that Now + There tries to do: curate local artists and partnering with other local organizations to create public art for the whole city to enjoy. “The goal of all of this together is to demand for more public art,” she said.
The space really lends itself to storytelling, Gilbert said, because it is congested on one side and then eases out and becomes more “serene and organic as it gets to the pillars.”
She said that she would also love to see some sort of mural program in that space to prevent it from ever reverting back to its gray facade.
Lopez Chavez said that the positive response to the mural has shown “Boston that people really value art in the public realm,” and she was “very happy” to hear that it had been extended for another year.