Tag Archives: Street Art

street art Gloucester: 21st Century Orphans by Danny Diamond graffiti writer and mural artist

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There’s a monumental outdoor mural behind Prince Insurance at 3 Washington Street, Gloucester, Massachusetts, that changes every year. It’s sited on private property.

Thanks to the Greeke family who own Prince Insurance and let him have at it, artist and writer Danny Diamond has expressed his ideas and showcased his can command on this same outside wall annually since 2011.

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My favorite sight line is from Middle Street heading to the Captain Lester S. Wass American Legion Post 3 and the Joan of Arc sculpture by Anna Hyatt Huntington. It’s in a tight spot, and so is the kid with the green, green eyes staring back from the latest mural.

Diamond is using his talents to bring awareness to homelessness and the economy. Here’s an excerpt from his statement about 21st Century Orphans: “The windfall of green-backs that flies from my letters gives way to dingy news-print and beggars’ placards–this orphaned child’s currency. It’s rarely discussed, in our scenic little fishing town, that the homeless population has increased in Massachusetts by 40% since 2007, even as the national average was in decline. This in part due to the fact that the cost of living here in Mass is among the highest in the country; the cost of housing continues to increase now that the market has come back, and there is no relief in sight… Fifteen percent (over half a million) of our children here in the Bay state live in poverty; of the over seventeen-thousand homeless people here, thirty-eight percent are children.” – Danny Diamond, 2016

A Gloucester native, Diamond is busy with commercial art and commissions on both coasts.  I had a chance to ask him more about his art and writing after I did a post about the sea monster fence he painted. He brushed off the street artist description: “I consider myself a graffiti-writer and sometimes a mural-artist, but not a “street-artist” (semantic distinction).”  I asked him about Gloucester connections and if he went to the high school. Did any teachers influence him? He wrote back swiftly:

I studied art under Jackie Underwood, who was “Jackie Kapp” at the time, as well as theatre and set-design with Krista Cowan and Kim Trigilio. I went on to earn a cum laude BA in English Lit and Creative Writing at UMass Boston, class of ’06… I spent a lot of time at Artspace on Center St. as a kid, and so Gloucester’s sub-cultural grandmaster Shep Abbott had a big effect on me by bringing punk rock and mural art into downtown. I was mentored in the world of graffiti art by the late Jed Richardson of Manhattan who was a major figure in the NYC subway-train art movement of the 1980’s; he moved to Gloucester in 2001 or so and remained here until his passing in September of ’09… ” 

Diamond created a tribute chalk mural to his mentor at Minglewood Tavern. I worked in New York and saw first hand the 1980 era kings (and not so kings) of subway and club graffiti. I didn’t know Jed Richardson’s work and wondered if Diamond had an image to share for this post.

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artist Jed Richardson c.2008 (photo from artist Danny Diamond)

I also thought about the owners who turned over their wall for Diamond’s art. I learned that the building is owned by Peter Greeke who founded Prince Insurance. Aha! A creative family that understood and allows Danny Diamond the use of a large wall to practice and express his art. The Prince Insurance company is on Washington Street between Middle and Main and directly across from the Legion. It is a second generation family business that has specialized  in personal insurance for more than 35 years. It’s now co-owned by sisters, Melissa Moseley and Wendy Prendergast. A third sister, fashion designer Jennifer Greeke, operates Harpy Fashion out of the back office. The Prince Insurance storefront stands out with such original picture window displays.These windows are an entire family affair. Melissa doesn’t remember a time before the windows. Their mother creates them; Jen has made clothing, sculpted papier-mâché  creatures and mermaids. “Of course because of the community we  live in, over time artistic customers and friends joined in…like Richard Harding and the built boat. They’re just a lot of fun.”   Prince Insurance has a beautiful new website.

I hoped Danny Diamond had a record of his devoted wall mural project, which he obliterates and repaints every year. He did. Photographs below are from Diamond or his website, www.skribblefish.com.  His Instagram is @pyse117.  I added one showing a work in progress he is  completing for a new restaurant opening in Salem in February and other local commissions.

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Gloucester street art is an all star

Worcester, the host city for the Ma Smart Growth Conference, is Massachusetts’ second largest city and pretty pumped with a 500 million investment in their ‘city square’ area. The city invested 8 million dollars into their ‘streetscapes’, including a skating rink. “10,000 came out for themed skate nights!” I’ve heard skating rink wishes mentioned once or twice in Gloucester: discussions pro I4C2 or somewhere on Middle Street (“a scene nearly Currier and Ives!”) and why isn’t the O’Maley skating rink used by the students? “We used to use it for gym? It’s an amenity right there.”

Other conference talks focused on investment in public space and public health. Worcester aims to earn the distinction Healthiest Community in MA by 2020. They have the first and only accredited public health department so they’re investing in a core culture.  The conference speakers spoke about housing, planning, walk-ability, return of multi-generational family households, and diversity. Millennials say: “Where do I want to live?” and then go. Their parents’ said “Where is the job?” and relocated. We were told many times that millennials are different than boomers: they don’t like traditional offices and buildings for work. They would rather walk, bike or commute by train. Ideally their life radius would fall within one mile, a neighborhood scale. How does that affect consolidating schools vs neighborhood schools and other debates ensued.

From a planning perspective: “Does the investment action help to encourage sprawl or does it invest in your community?”

 

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The session “Is Housing a Municipal Budget Buster” was led by Mayor Donna Holaday of Newburyport and panelists included former Gov. Glendening and Umass Dartmouth Director of Public Policy, Michael Goodman. Most questions went to Mike Hogan, who gave a talk about Oceanspray’s residential venture in Plymouth, Redbrook Village. Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce brought him here to speak to our communities a couple of years ago.  He said to say hi to Peter Webber :).

The second session I attended focused on arts and planning and was led by artist (ceramicist) and planner, Jennifer Erickson with Kenneth Bailey, Design Studio for Social Intervention (D24SI) and others.  A projected slide loop featuring model national art projects scrolled continuously. I was so caught up in the briefs that I nearly missed one picture from Gloucester: the monumental Parsons Street mural by James Owen Calderwood. Congratulations James!

Cruz Ferreras took the photograph during a block party; there’s a Cape Ann Art Haven painting in progress and kids leaping. Since that photo, street lighting and more art was added, a second monumental mural, painted by children, under the direction of Cape Ann Art HavenThe Gloucester Fish Net mural was a temporary commission that is lasting because the road is primarily used for walking. (Also, the artist painted it over a second time, and widened it.) With funding, Cape Ann Art Haven art center  or an individual artist like Jason Burroughs (who assisted James Owen Calderwood) could re-paint the mural. With funding and fresh sealcoating, we could issue a Call for a new work of art. There are several more walls along Parsons Street that could be a wonderful matrix for murals, or the streetscape for a dance or theater production. 

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Google street view FISH NET 300 foot street muralIMG_6891

PUBLIC ART: O’MALEY ELLSWORTH KELLY, PART 2 FROM CAT RYAN

We have great teachers in Gloucester! For Ms. Mulkern

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“I put those posters in my classroom windows to minimize the intense sun that streams in at certain times of the day – I was thinking Ellsworth Kelly when I saw them from outside – but Piet Mondrian works great!” –  Joanna Mulkern ESL Teacher/O’Maley

Thanks for adding the motivation behind your window design. Oh, yes!  I see Ellsworth Kelly (1923-2015), too. And your comment pushed me to think about other visual artists such as Anni Albers, Edward Landon, Sol Lewitt, Al Held– and Matisse and Calder (who Kelly looked to.) Plus your Kelly comment relates to the architecture at O’Maley and Kelly’s years in Paris at the time of Le Corbusier’s influence. O’Maley is a bit red-brick bauhaus and other architectural styles. Does anyone know the architect?

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Ellsworth Kelly’s Sculpture for a Large Wall, 1957, installation shot at Matthew Marks Gallery (now in MoMa)

 

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Ellsworth Kelly’s Sculpture for a Large Wall (Transportation Building Lobby Sculpture), 1957 original commission for the lobby of the Pennsylvania Transportation Building, Penn Center, Philadelphia, PA. It was sold to Ronald Lauder in 1998 when the building was redesigned. Jo Carole and Ronald eventually donated it to MoMa.

 

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Installed at Matthew Marks Gallery (top photo) then Barnes Foundation in 2013 (this photo) prior to current installation at MoMa

 

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Le Corbusier Museum, Zurich Switzerland

 

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Le Corbusier Foundation Firminy France

 

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Are we there yet Earth Day? Art Love & Harmony

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Happy Earth Day! If you missed Patti Amaral’s every day is Earth Day letter to the editor  it’s a great way to begin your morning. Her letter made me think about this street art in Gloucester. Does anyone know who painted it and how it came about? Is it unique?

The mural is located out of sight behind Dunkin’ Donuts. I am a Dunkin regular. Admittedly a drive-thru is not a promising Earth Day post.  There’s a reward with this one: a sun dappled park scene where everyone and their dog are enjoying the open air, lunch, the sun, the moment–and they pick up after themselves!

Patti, Donna, Amy– in this world Everyone is pitching in, all lyrical limbs. There’s even a bit of  perspective.Ten years ago, the mural wrapped so you might not catch the whole story with just one queue. You’d need to drive through again and it wouldn’t bother you a bit. Over time, low and lush hydrangea beneath the mural were broken up and dispersed among planters. Small billboards with local advertising sprouted; it’s hard to find fault with that business effort. We hoped it was only a trial. It wasn’t. My young sons felt badly for the painting when ads were pasted right up to the mural’s edge and (eek!) atop. The day came when they said no way to that drive through. (We may have wrote the owners please move the signs a little more to the left and can you fix it?)

It’s been years and I forgot about the painting. The billboard clutter was drastically reduced. Unfortunately there’s no harmony in 104.9 smack dab in the middle of the painting. And is it churlish on Earth Day to wish that the 2 evergreen somethings that have grown too tall for that site could be cropped, instead of the image? If that sign (sorry 104.9) was scooched over and off…cue the Earth Day music.

 

Fifth Dimension’s 1969 chart topping Age of Aquarius – Let the Sunshine In. The clip includes scenes from Hair. My dear friend blasts this song first thing Earth Day morning. What’s on your Earth Day playlist?

Out in the street around the bend

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Have you seen the custom sign designed for the Gloucester Writers Center on East Main Street? I sent a picture of the drive by view to Henry Ferrini. He sent back “an interior shot of the sign with an effigy of Vincent working at his typewriter”  looking out their new-ish (2014) window thanks to another helpful grant of the Community Preservation Act.

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The sign was made by Cheryl’s Signs in Gloucester and installed last fall. Ferrini added: “William Taylor who is on the board of the Gloucester Writers Center should get all the kudos. He came up with the idea and executed it.” Look out the window and listen:  Henry plays a part in the captivating restoration of classical radio WCVA-FM www.wcva.com. Turn it on.

This week: poets Jay Featherstone reading with Carol Seitchik at the Gloucester Writers’ Center, Wed April 6, 7:30 pm.