The Immigrant and Origin Story Mural Project is a multifaceted mural and creative placemaking project celebrating the tapestry of local immigrant and origin stories in neighborhoods across this country. The project centers on a public mural along with a host of related events that activate the space - engaging the community at every step of the process.
This project aims to address three aspects of a community: 1. beautification of an area with a powerful, stunning artwork that offers a sense of identity; 2. elevation of underrepresented immigrant and origin stories and the strengthening of the entire area’s sense of community; 3. stimulation of economic activity and self-initiated community initiatives.
This project’s pilot was in Haverhill, MA, a post-industrial city of approximately 60,000 with rapidly changing demographics and growing pains related to those changes. It’s residents come from a variety of backgrounds that arrived at different periods in history - with large Italian, English, French-Canadian, and Irish communities. Today, twenty percent of Haverhill identifies as Latino, having immigrated more recently.
The mural’s style was developed to both celebrate the cultural histories of long-time residents and elevate the current experiences of more recent immigrants.The mural was painted in a style inspired by Italian folk-art traditions that incorporated local history and showcased 46 brightly painted panels featuring 148 portraits of community members of diverse and time-periods. These portraits are framed by a border that incorporates local iconography. In the center of the mural, there is a tableaux with a Haverhill city skyline that incorporates community-identified landmarks.
Every step of this project was collaborative, engaging over 30 local and state nonprofits and businesses, along with several community leaders including state legislators, business executives, and community activists. The project hosted youth storytelling workshops, interactive art projects, poetry performances, community listening sessions, potlucks, and a large story-gathering initiative. One of the groups we engaged was the Boys and Girls Club of Haverhill (pictured above), who visited my studio to talk about the mural and what it means be an immigrant. Then, they're showed off their own art at the opening!!
The mural and associated programming have had a long term impact, enlivening the area’s sense of community, creating a representative expression of the city, and bringing economic improvements by increasing activity in the downtown and encouraging additional investment.