The South End Landmark District Commission (SELDC) on June 7 approved the installation of a mural on the side of the building at 1701 Washington St., which is home to the Washington Manor Apartments.
The mural is being proposed by the City of Boston, along with the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, the Boston Art Commission, the Boston Housing Authority, and Youth Lead the Change. The mural’s artist is Victor “Marka27” Quiñonez, and the art is titled “Souledad.”
According to an advertisement for this hearing, “Inspired by the long history of cultural gatherings at Villa Victoria, ‘Souledad’ depicts several African, Neo-Indigenous, and Chinese symbolic images representing prosperity, luck, integrity, and double happiness.”
The vibrant mural depicts a mother and her child, along with other symbols like a white lotus, an authentic Chinese dragon, an African textile wrap with the Puerto Rican flag, Asian style clouds, a Cherry blossom tree, and the Chinese symbols for prosperity, luck, longevity, and double happiness, according to a slide presented at the hearing.
This mural is part of the city’s Transformative Public Art initiative, for which several mural sites were proposed, including Washington Manor, according to Karin Goodfellow, Director of Public Art in the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture.
Artist Marka27 “has emerged as one of the most sought after muralists…” Goodfellow said.
“The mural was something that was put together when working with the community directly,” Marka27 said at the hearing. “The mural itself is dedicated to the South End in memory of many things that happened in that area,” he said, including Villa Victoria and the multiple cultural generations that thrive in that community.”
Goodfellow spoke about the maintenance budget for this mural, as the city aims to take care of its existing art just as much as it proposes new works.
The Commission discussed several details relating to maintenance with the artist, including the base coat and top coat.
“Essentially the base coat is a high premium coat that tacks onto the wall that can be removed if you use the correct chemical,” Marka27 said. “In essence, pretty much any mural can be removed,” though this mural is not intended to be a temporary installation. He said that the paint is intended to last between 15 and 20 years.
Freeman had some questions about the building at 1701 Washington St. and whether or not a mural would be allowed, as “murals are not allowed on original elevation facades” in the South End per the Commission’s guidelines.
“This is, I think, a non-contributing building,” he said. “We can assume that it’s allowed.”
Commissioner Catherine Hunt said that “this building needs all the help it can get,” so she likes the idea of the mural on the side.
Several people attended the hearing to support the mural project, with many praising the design and Marka27, adding that they cannot wait to see this mural become part of the fabric of the community.
“I’m a big fan of Marka27 and Street Theory, and we couldn’t have picked a better person, a better group to come up with a concept for this wall,” said Euka Holmes, Vice President of the Boston Art Commission. She said that she once lived on Worcester St. for 17 years, and “for the people who are still there, this is a great gift and I just want to share my support and excitement along with everyone else’s.”
Rev. Mariama White-Hammond, Chief of Environment, Energy, and Open Space for the city, said that “I just want to say that I think this is an opportunity to hold multiple histories at the same time in the South End,” and that she supports this project.
Fellow muralist and artist Rob “ProBlak” Gibbs also tuned in to express his support.
Commissioner John Freeman asked if there was going to be a “plaque or text element” or any sort of sign that provides information about the mural and the artist.
The team said that while it is not part of the plans presented at this hearing, it is something that could be part of the final product. Freeman said that such an addition would require separate approval from the Commission.
The Commission approved the mural, along with the concept of a sign element should the artist choose to include one, though the details of that would have to be reviewed by the SELDC. Other provisos include that the team will work with staff “to confirm this meets any city requirements for substrate and future maintenance,” as well as removability should it ever need to be removed, Freeman said. The final proviso is that the city commits to maintaining the mural, which it has already said it will.