Street mural artists explain their craft

Artists, said Percy Fortini-Wright, aredocumenters” of history. “Without artists, you wouldn’t know what went on in the past,” he said. Art is what man has created up until now…It’s the most important thing and should be kind of put on a pedestal and not looked at as like art as a profession. It should be looked at as the creative genius of humanity.”

Fortini-Wright, a Boston-based mural painter whose style combines graffiti with fine arts, has lofty goals for the arts. The more people that take on that path of freedom of expression of self and mastering it and utilizing income and sharing that with people, the quicker we get to a better place in humanity and existence,” Fortini-Wright said.

As CommonWealth reported, more Massachusetts communities, particularly Gateway Cities, are turning to large public murals to transform their neighborhoods. Murals can enhance civic pride, attract tourists, and even improve public safety. On this week’s Codcast, we spoke to two mural artists, Fortini-Wright and Mike Grimaldi, about their craft.

Grimaldi, a Salem resident who goes by the name Grimdrops in the art world, waited a decade after graduating from Montserrat College of Art before even attempting a mural.” “I had huge admiration for this work, but I was way too scared to take on a project,” Grimaldi said. He took the leap at a Salem arts festival, painting a four by eight piece of plywood, and got hooked.

Grimaldi describes his style as “very clean, very bold, very graphic.”

“Businesses will come to me with a general idea, and then it’s my job as an artist and muralist to visualize it, make something that makes sense for the project and what they’re looking for,” Grimaldi said.

Fortini-Wright describes himself as a realist and an observational painter, who is known for his cityscapes, like a Cambridge mural that depicts Central Square at night. “I’ve been a working artist for a long time, merging the aesthetic of coalescing graffiti and classical oil painting,” he said. His trademark motif is a zebra, reflecting his multiracial heritage and Libra zodiac sign (zebra, he points out, rhymes with Libra and has stripes, echoing the balance of opposing forces in Libra’s scale symbol).

While speaking on the Codcast, Fortini-Wright walked down to a massive mural of an Orange Line train, replete with a zebra, that he’s painting for a private client and art collector who owns a Boston data center and commissioned the mural in a parking garage abutting the Orange Line.

Asked practically how one creates gigantic murals on buildings, Grimaldi said he designs his murals on his iPad first, then either projects the image onto the wall or uses a grid method, dividing the picture into squares and painting one square at a time.

Fortini-Wright generally sketches his ideas and works from a reference photo, but focuses more on the big picture rather than sketching each detail. He uses paint rollers with extenders to get up high or low on a wall and extend his range, and uses a combination of spray paint and house paint.

Fortini-Wright said part of his goal is to positively impact the community, particularly by inspiring other artists. “I think of artists like mini-creators where we’re kind of creating our own little reality,” Fortini-Wright said. I hope I inspire other artists to become artists as well, other young people. To be able to create your own work out of your own thinking I think is what our purpose is here.”

Grimaldi said living in Salem, where the El Punto Urban Art Museum has filled The Point neighborhood with murals, and near Lynn, where Beyond Walls has commissioned dozens of murals, he has seen the transformative impact of art.The public art here is just unbelievable, “Grimaldi said. They’ve got work from some of the most renowned street artists around in the world. So it definitely transforms the area. And I feel like it definitely makes you stop to really appreciate it.”

“I get excited, and the community seems to get excited, each time a new artist is brought into the city to put up new work. It always gets people talking, which I think is always for the best,” Grimaldi said.

SHIRA SCHOENBERG

FROM COMMONWEALTH

Murals catch on: Large-scale murals are spreading from community to community as municipalities discover urban art can be a transformative form of community development. It’s working in Lynn and Salem and spreading to Holyoke, Fall River, Lowell, Lawrence, New Bedford, Springfield, and Fitchburg.  Read more.

FERC grants delay: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approves a two-year delay sought by the operator of the New England power grid to incorporate offshore wind into one of the region’s key electricity markets. Environmental activists say the decision will prop up fossil fuel use for another two years, while proponents say the delay will guarantee a smoother transition to renewable energy. Read more.

Baker vetoes driver’s license bill: Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed legislation that would offers driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, saying the bill would require the Registry of Motor Vehicles to issue licenses to people who cannot verify their identity. The bill requires applicants for the licenses to supply two forms of identification, but Baker said he worried that state workers would not have the skill to verify the accuracy of the documents, many of which could come from foreign countries. Lawmakers are likely to override the veto. Read more.

OPINION

Alarm bells in Allston: Allston resident Brett Whelan wonders whether Harvard University’s Enterprise Research Campus is turning his neighborhood into the diverse-less Seaport District. Read more.

A decade of indifference: Lane Glenn, the president of Northern Essex Community College, laments the tragedy in Uvalde and how little has changed since Newtown nearly a decade ago. Read more.

No liability concerns: Gary Lieberman, a management side lawyers, says “vicarious liability” is not an issue with the ballot question over rideshare app drivers. Read more.

Mental health supports: Lauren Jones of the Mass. Business Roundtable and Richard Pops of Alkermes applaud companies for recognizing the value of providing mental health supports for their workers. Read more.

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

The backlog of cases at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination has soared during COVID, with complaints taking years, not months, to resolve. (WBUR)

Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin says Gov. Charlie Baker’s concern that giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants will result in non-citizens being allowed to vote is “baseless.” (MassLive)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

A Daily Item editorial slams Rep. Leonard Mirra for pushing legislation to oust Essex County Probate Court Associate Justice Abbe Ross for alleged bias. CommonWealth ran a story on the controversy a year ago.

Springfield plans to extend its moratorium on new pawn shops and secondhand stores as well as its 30-day waiting period for selling a pawned item. (MassLive)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The White House plans to open federally sponsored test-and-treat sites in Massachusetts where people can get tested for COVID and immediately get medication if they are eligible. (Gloucester Daily Times)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

A childhood in Springfield and Longmeadow shaped former New York City first lady Chirlane McCray. (MassLive)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The state’s building industry is urging municipal leaders to tap into federal grants available from the new jobs and infrastructure law for fixing roadways and upgrading water and sewer systems. (Salem News)

Starter and entry level homes are getting harder to find on the South Shore, with prices rising. (Patriot Ledger)

IMMIGRATION

Members of Congress from Massachusetts and Maine pressure the Department of Homeland Security to explain the low rate of approvals for asylum applications at the agency’s Boston office. (GBH)

EDUCATION

The former head of English learner services for the Boston Public Schools says she was pushed out of the job only weeks into her tenure because she said the district was improperly steering English learners into regular classrooms. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

Elected officials and transit advocates say they still have confidence in MBTA general manager Steve Poftak despite a series of safety issues on the system that have prompted a federal review. (Boston Globe

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A tobacco store owner is charged with attempting to bribe a state Lottery official after his son was denied the ability to collect Lottery winnings because the winning tickets were transferred to the son illegally. (MassLive)

Boston police arrested nine people and confiscated 10 guns in separate incidents over the long weekend in Dorchester and Mattapan. (Boston Herald

The executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Chiefs of Police ties the state’s low rate of school shootings to the state’s strict gun laws. (Boston Herald

PASSINGS

David Carrasquillo, a Springfield rapper known as Bossdawn, is killed in a shooting at Springfield’s Saga VIP Lounge. (MassLive)