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New look coming for Lynn street art

This article was published 3 year(s) ago.

Artwork by artist Jah’Nyah Spencer, to be featured in Beyond Walls’ Truth be Told Initiative.

LYNN — Beyond Walls has reimagined its annual street art festival this year into a downtown art-installation project that will be inspired by Lynn’s youth. 

Unlike past years, where events that typically draw large crowds were held, the sole focus of this year’s project will be the large-scale murals, art installations and performances created by a diverse group of local, regional and national artists. 

Dubbed Beyond Walls’ Truth be Told, the two-week initiative will kick off on Oct. 11 and consist of the installation of youth-provided art and photography, as well as new artwork created by street artists incorporating elements of stories that have been submitted by the city’s youth, according to Al Wilson, founder and CEO of Beyond Walls. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic began to take shape this spring, it became apparent fairly quickly that a large-scale street festival would not be possible this year, Wilson said, which prompted Beyond Walls staff to brainstorm ways that people could still be brought together to share stories of what they have been experiencing in 2020. 

“For Lynn youth, they’ve experienced an awful lot this year,” said Wilson.  “Times have been scary, (they) have been challenging, but none more so than for kids. The idea is this is a way to show that the youth were heard in a time where it’s really necessary to show inclusion, social justice, opportunity and equity. This is a means for the youth to have their stories heard and seen.”

To incorporate the experiences of Lynn youth, Wilson said Beyond Walls partnered with a variety of different groups to help collect the stories or to create the ability for the artwork to be installed.

In preparation of the initiative, which runs through Oct. 24, more than 300 photographs, drawings, paintings and stories were submitted by aspiring artists and writers, ages 5 to 21, which were reviewed by a panel of professional artists, designers, educators and Beyond Walls staff. 

In some instances, Beyond Walls representatives worked in-person with young people who are involved with the Boys & Girls Club of Lynn, the Lynn YMCA and Girls Inc. of Lynn, to develop and collect their artwork, Wilson said. 

“They submitted stuff that was based on their experiences during the pandemic, both what they have been challenged with, but also the people who have been heroes to them during this time, (along with) their thoughts and feelings about national discourse and humanitarian issues,” said Wilson. 

The Beyond Walls Truth be Told Initiative involves a collaboration with Harbor Voices, a public art collective; the Inside Out Project, a global nonprofit that incorporates personal stories into works of art; Amplifier, a design lab that produces art to amplify grassroots movements; and Cliff Notez, an award-winning multi-digital media artist, musician, organizer and filmmaker. 

For example, Amplifier will incorporate some of the youth submissions or artwork into a large-scale collage-type installation, which will also include some pieces provided by the design lab. All of the pieces will be based on messaging that incorporates the pandemic and social justice, Wilson said. 

The Inside Out piece will consist of black and white photography created by professional artists that will be informed by the stories and artwork submissions from Lynn’s youth, Wilson said. 

The Truth be Told Initiative is being funded by a $50,000 challenge grant from MassDevelopment and a crowdfunding campaign, which generated more than $80,000 in additional funding thanks to donations from more than 150 individuals. 

“Truth Be Told was created to galvanize our community by encouraging kids to share their stories and forge connections through the arts. The results are a powerful expression of their experiences during a very challenging time for urban youth,” said Wilson. “Truth Be Told will shine the light on our young people, by showcasing their courage, creativity and resilience.”

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