Building Up Downtown Lynn

By Cary Shuman

Al Wilson and a group of Lynn residents, business owners, and public art enthusiasts have big plans for building on the vibrancy of downtown Lynn.

Wilson, founder and executive director of Beyond Walls, made a presentation at the offices of the Daily Item Monday about the “placemaking” project that seeks to address the walk-ability and safety of downtown Lynn “through a multi-faceted installation of public art and lighting.”

Wilson said he is working as the director of the project alongside Amanda Hill of Raw Arts. Community leaders on the committee, including Beth Bresnahan, CEO of Essex Media Group, James Wilson, COO of Essex Media Group, Carolina Trujillo, community relations director of the Daily Item, and Seth Albaum, editor of Lynn Happens, were present at the presentation.

According to information distributed at the meeting and available on the project Web site, the key components of the project are: dynamic LED lighting on the underpasses located at Central Square, Market Street, and the Washington Street corridor; 12 large-scale vintage neon art pieces that will illuminate Lynn’s downtown; 10 large murals painted by international and locally recognized artists, and a sculpture of a General Electric jet engine that will be placed in the downtown area.

Wilson released a timeline for the yearlong project that includes a major fundraiser party at Lynn Museum on April 6. He noted the project has 60 days to reach a fundraising goal of $50,000 in order to secure a match of $50,000 in grants from the state.

“I’m familiar with Lynn and the North Shore from playing soccer as an adolescent and in college and post-college,” said Wilson. “So we set out on this project and approached the state about the project.”

In an accompanying video presentation, Wilson said, “We’re going to increase the walk-ability of downtown Lynn. That walk-ability is going to help all of the businesses: the retail stores, the service industry, the mom-and-pop shops. This whole cycle that ends up being created through this placemaking project is really going to benefit Lynn.”

Wilson was asked to define the term, “placemaking.”

He responded, “Placemaking is just that, using arts and culture to put a place on the map. It’s largely done in areas where you don’t have a sense of this arts and culture but you need a tipping point and you need something on scale – and that’s what is happening here [in downtown Lynn].”

Hill added that a project of this nature “brings a community together and creates a destination.”

Wilson said state officials guided him to MassDevelopment and Commonwealth Places, a placement grants program to which the group has applied for funding.

Wilson said the mission of the project is twofold, “to use culture and art to improve the quality of life for people who live here now and to change a perception on Lynn, specifically targeting the millennials in Greater Boston.”

He said the project partners doing pro bono work are Payette, an architectural design firm, and Lam Partners, a firm that provides lighting consulting for architectural and urban design.

“Senator [Tom] McGee was very early a supporter of the project as were State Representatives Dan Cahill and Brendan Crighton and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy – basically we gained a coalition early.”

Wilson is hoping for a large showing of community support at the upcoming fundraiser at Lynn Museum.

(Information from the Web site was used in the compilation of this story, some of which appears verbatim in the story).

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