I’ve been honored to work with the Beyond Walls team since before it was even known as Beyond Walls.

unnamed.jpgIt’s been incredible to see the organization grow and the positive impact that it has had on the residents of Lynn while supporting an existing sense of local pride among residents. Beyond Walls hasn’t created that sense of local pride in Lynn… it was always there… it’s just helped to showcase it to the world and local residents and former Lynn residents alike. I’m reminded of a conversation I had while admiring one of the murals being installed during the first year of the mural festival with an area resident. We were talking and he mentioned a bit about his past, an immigrant to America 20-years ago, he landed in Central Square in Lynn.  He told some American family that he was living in Lynn and they only had bad things to say about the city, repeating the moniker we all know far too well… “Lynn, Lynn, City of Sin…”  That day, he was photographing all the mural installations, talking to neighbors, talking to the artists, sharing his story, and sharing how excited he was to show these photos to all of his family with immense pride.  The murals aren’t just art to be gawked at by passers by… They are one of a number of tools in a tool-kit to help build and connect a community. They’re conversation starters, something we all need a bit more these days, face to face conversations with strangers, with our neighbors.

My personal, family story with Lynn started nearly a century ago as both of my Grandparents at one point lived in and around Central Square. My 97-year old grandmother had the chance to come back to her former home to tour the murals… even choosing Fonki’s piece as her personal favorite!

Today, challenges are presented in facing the COVID-19 pandemic head-on and the small team at Beyond Walls has gone above and beyond to pivot their work continuously during the pandemic to serve the community.  First, they worked to support the immediate needs of area residents by designing and manufacturing “WaSH” stations throughout the downtown to provide hand sanitizing. Next, they designed and installed “FoLD,” outdoor barriers and lighting for local restaurants forced to expand food service to the outdoors to keep diners and the community safe. Both products were manufactured right here in Lynn, employing local Lynn Tech students to help in the manufacturing and assembly.  As the demand for masks ramped up, Beyond Walls hired local seamstresses to help manufacture masks featuring the artwork on the walls around the city and distributed them to local residents, students and staff working on their latest art installations.

Our individual responses to COVID-19 has forced us all to pivot, adapt, and innovate and Beyond Walls response this year was no different, pivoting, adapting and innovating alongside the Lynn Community every step of the way.

Jonathan Berk


Jonathan is the New England Director of Patronicity, a platform that empowers local placemaking projects through crowdfunding, access to matching grants and hands-on project coaching.