Beyond Walls transforms Holyoke’s artistic landscape

Beyond Walls

Edwin David Sepulveda, from Puerto Rico, stands in front of a 50-foot x 85-foot wall mural he created on a building on High Street in Hoyloke, Sunday, June 19. Sepulveda is part of the Beyond Walls street art organization. (Frederick Gore Photo)

HOLYOKE –

Beyond Walls continues to transform the city’s artistic landscape along the High and Main Street corridors, a movement that celebrates Holyoke’s rich Puerto Rican culture.

International artists are tasked with painting five murals and installing a multimedia piece.

Beyond Walls made Holyoke the first stop on a four-city tour, along with public art installations in Fall River, Lowell and Lynn, the organization’s home base. In addition, nonprofit Nueva Esperanza, situated in the city’s Puerto Rican Cultural District, partnered with Beyond Walls.

With walls primed and prepped, artists on lifts hoisted themselves skyward to paint murals that burst with colors, symbolism and beauty, including David Don Rimx’s three-story masterpiece that looms above upper High Street.

Holyoke has become a block-by-block art exhibit, with worn and weathered brick magically alive and beckoning viewers.

Al Wilson, the organization’s founder and executive director, was inspired by similar works in London, Brooklyn, New York City and Philadelphia. He praised Holyoke officials, the artists, and the business community for supporting the project.

“The whole community has come together, and that’s fantastic. It was a shared desire to bring some of the legends of Puerto Rican street art,” Wilson said. The artist will work on the murals and installations until Wednesday.

“We believe when communities find opportunities to come together and share their stories, cultures and common interests, great things can happen,” Wilson said. “We’re invited to hear the community’s shared needs and interests, which happened in Holyoke.”

Artist David Zayas made significant progress on a mural at 398 Main St., a former carriage house. Primary colors dominate Zayas’ mural covers the carriage house’s south-facing wall. He and an assistant worked atop a hydraulic lift.

Zayas hails from Ponce, a city in southern Puerto Rico, a place with solid connections to Holyoke. “I fells the roots and the culture in the people,” he said. Beyond Walls allowed Zayas to connect with the Puerto Rican community in Massachusetts.

“For me, it’s a big surprise and an honor because I know they leave the island to find a better life,” he added. “I’m excited to make a mural for these people and this community.” Art has been a lifelong pursuit for Zayas, whose father is an illustrator.

A rooster and a woman in traditional garb are featured in Zayas mural. The rooster represents fierceness and vigilance in the face of colonialism. The woman dances to Bomba music, the island’s traditional sound. “The culture is one mode of resistance for communities,” he said.

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