Shirley Ave Gateway Starts to Take Shape

Over the past two years, over one hundred Revere residents have participated in a series of community design events to envision and start to implement a new gateway to their neighborhood — Shirley Avenue — a neighborhood enriched by the history of Revere Beach next door, and enlivened by the wonderfully diverse array of cultures present in local residents and businesses today.

The existing scene when one exits the Revere Beach T station gave no hint of the lively neighborhood beyond, while the chain link made it difficult to get there.

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The Neighborhood Developers initiated a project with the City of Revere to create a new, community focused, artistic “gateway” on the triangle of city-owned land between the T station and Shirley Avenue.  The CDRC led a series of community meetings to brainstorm ideas with local residents.  Landscape architects from the AGER Group have since developed these ideas into formal construction documents.  The project is now making its way through the multi-year process of city funding.

So we asked, what might we do in the short term to suggest that transformation had begun?

In the summer of 2012, the CDRC hosted two architecture student interns from the Center of Community and Learning Partnerships at Wentworth Institute of Technology.  Leslie and Michael analyzed the site, and assessed that there were vertical surfaces — the chain link fence, the bare brick walls — that frame the view of Shirley Ave.  These surfaces might be transformed as first steps toward the permanent City gateway.  They again turned to the community for input.  Residents suggested strong preferences for introducing art that suggested the cultural vibrancy of the neighborhood today, and that celebrated the longstanding connection to Revere Beach.

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Building from these neighborhood concepts, Nikki Murphy, art teacher at the Garfield Middle School, worked with her students to create an installation for the MBTA fence.  The eighth graders painted nearly 90 different “Faces of Shirley Avenue,” capturing images of residents of all ages.  This temporary installation was hung in November 2013, and, will be in place for a few years.

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Meanwhile, in the summer of 2013, 30 residents took a leadership role in the Shirley Ave gateway project by overseeing the process for a permanent mural. This committee managed community input, selected the mural site, held a call for artists, and chose local artist, Alex Gerasev, to design and paint the mural.

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The mural will be the tangible result of a two-year process that has engaged hundreds of residents in conversations about how to best represent their neighborhood at its main entryway. The mural design highlights the history, diversity and vibrancy of the neighborhood and reinforces a positive neighborhood identity. And the installation will repurpose a brick wall into a work of art that welcomes residents and visitors into the neighborhood and promotes the business district.

Alex Gerasev is an artist and graphic designer whose work has been featured in galleries across the US and Europe. He resides in Revere.

THANK YOU to the Revere Cultural Council and local businesses for providing financial support, and to the many many volunteer designers, students, and community residents for providing ideas, inspiration, and effort.

The new gateway has begun.

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