​5 For Good: Public art initiative helps to transform downtown Lynn

More than a dozen murals have been painted as part of Beyond Walls

A large scale art initiative is helping to transform Lynn. It’s thanks to the vision of a north shore man who recognized promise in the city.

Originally from Walpole, Al Wilson was inspired by other cities where public art has fostered neighborhoods. He started with feedback from the Lynn community.

“That feedback was more public art, they wanted to light the underpasses of the MBTA commuter rail, engage sidewalk space,” Wilson said

His nonprofit Beyond Walls aims to respond. The first phase was a mural project. Fifteen murals, in some cases building-sized, were painted in a 10-block area of downtown Lynn. They were completed in a 10-day period by artists from around the world. The goal was to reflect the cultural makeup of Lynn. Mayor Judith Kennedy says the murals are making a big difference for the city’s economy.

“Some of our local coffee shops have done three to six times the business that they would ordinarily do at this time of year,” Kennedy said. “We’ve had visitors from all over the state.”

Several pieces of vintage neon art are also up as part of Beyond Walls. A dozen in total will eventually be installed. Also to come, a trio of dynamic light installations at otherwise dark and often unsafe underpasses.

“It’s part of that narrative, if we can engage the sidewalks and increase walkability, we’ll encourage businesses to stay open later,” Wilson said. “If businesses stay open later, and they’re getting business, that’s a second job opportunity for someone that lives here in Lynn.”

Beyond Walls has been supported by donations from companies and foundations. 1,400 Lynn residents also donated money, and the Commonwealth matched those funds.

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