Beyond Walls was founded in 2016 as a volunteer-driven, grassroots initiative by Executive Director Al Wilson. The organization was created in response to a third party Downtown Action Strategy calling for increased public art and improved walkability in the community. Inspired by similar projects in Brooklyn, NY; Philadelphia, PA; and Kings Cross, London, Wilson saw the potential for placemaking projects in Lynn, which has a rich history, impressive architecture, and a thriving arts and cultural district. Lynn Housing and Neighborhood Development/Neighborhood Development Associates, Inc. (LHAND/NDA) served as the fiscal agent for Beyond Walls initially, and in 2019, the organization became a formal 501c3.

Since its inception, Beyond Walls has focused on addressing the community’s requests for more art and lighting in Downtown Lynn. The organization has hosted Mural Festivals featuring local, regional, national, and international artists, which resulted in over 80 building-sized murals. In addition, Beyond Walls has installed 16,000 square feet of interactive and permanent LED lighting in underpasses, added 11 pieces of light-emitting vintage neon artwork, and conserved a 1942 jet engine (to be displayed at Lynn City Hall) as a tribute to the city’s industrial roots. Beyond Walls continues to work with various community partners on various projects that aim to bring new arts- and creativity-based economic development and community building opportunities to Lynn. The organization has raised over 1 million in in-kind support, demonstrating the strong community support and successful partnerships.

Beyond Walls has received several awards for its work, including the MassInc. Gateway Cities “Innovation” Award, the HubWeek Art Award for “Impactful Public Art,” and the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence. Founder Al Wilson has been invited to speak at conferences related to creative placemaking and grassroots initiatives in New Orleans, St. Louis, Jackson, Mississippi, and Atlanta, Georgia.