Walking to my nearby Porter Square and a bit beyond in Cambridge, I visited murals that show elements of history in ways that suit this artform. You can learn and sense a lot about earlier centuries in Porter Square by walking the block that contains three related murals. You can take in the impact and origins of a significant statesman’s life by standing in the presence of the Tip O’Neill mural in North Cambridge.
Davenport Street Mural, Porter Square, Cambridge
How three murals came together over more than twenty years: “In 1977, Porter Square resident Jeff Oberdorfer received a grant from the CAC to turn a large back wall of the shopping center into an extension of the neighborhood. Oberdorfer and a small group of dedicated neighbors painted a mural of triple-decker houses, very much like the abutting buildings.
In 1984, the mural was restored by artist Lisa Carter, who added several figures to the scene. In 1989 a second large mural was painted by students from Massachusetts College of Art under the supervision of Professor Al Gowan. The mural shows the Rand Estate, which used to be where the shopping center is now.
Finally, in 2000, muralist Joshua Winer turned a remaining 200-foot long stretch of the back wall into a lively neighborhood street scene with houses and gardens. Designed as a response to the character of the North Cambridge neighborhood, the mural references the architectural styles and history of Porter Square, including the area’s cattle yards and the famous “Porterhouse Steak.”” ( quoted from Cambridge Arts Council Fact Sheet)
Tip O’Neill Mural, North Cambridge
“The series of commemorative Tip O’Neill events concluded on December 9th – Tip’s birthday – with the unveiling of an impressive 12 ft. X 36 ft. mural located on the back parking lot side of the Mildred O’Neill Branch Library, in North Cambridge (named after Tip’s wife Mildred), a few blocks from where Tip grew up. The mural depicts his Irish heritage, as well as his childhood, studies, family, while also bringing to the fore numerous legislative achievements, political partnerships, and friendships with people of different races and parties.” ( quote from 2013 post by Ian Scully on Cambridge Community Television website )
More Examples and Perspectives
Both Joshua Winer and David Fichter offer other fascinating informative examples of historical murals on their artist websites:
“A blank building wall is the muralist’s ideal canvas, rich with potential for creating site-specific art in a real world setting. Murals are ideally suited for telling stories filled with meaning for the local community. Local history is an important part of the common story.” (quote from Joshua Winer intro to Community and Historical Murals )