Sprouting up in a once barren swath of land in the South End, the geometric bright pink and aquamarine stamps of Victor ‘Marka27’ Quinonez’s ‘Cranes in the Sky’ mural soar against the backdrop of the Boston skyline. Its placement, snaking up a pillar of I-93, is intentional. According to the artist, it offers drivers heading into Boston a small taste of what lies below.
In a city where some of the most recognized public art is along the highway (the whale mural by Ronnie Deziel on Planet Self Storage, Corita Kent’s storied work on the gas tank), Boston’s latest generation of street artists have been rethinking how business, community, and city planners can collaborate. The results have led to the Hub’s standout street art gallery; first created in 2017, the Underground Mural Project at Ink Block is a joint venture between Street Theory gallery, MassDoT, and one of Boston’s biggest developers, National Development. All together, the space serves as an outdoor gallery, a park, and recreational area.
New street art from Silivia Lopez Chavez, GoFive, Indie184, Greg LaMarche, Muro, Dana Woulfe, and Matthew Zaremba will be up by this Saturday, June 29, and will join nine previously painted murals from the likes of Imagine, Hoxxoh, Problak, and DonRimx. To celebrate, they’ll be hosting food trucks, music, and more at the 90 Traveler Street location from 2 pm to 6 pm.
Quinonez, who runs Street Theory with his wife Liza, said it was important to include work from a diverse range of artists.
“Their differing aesthetics, themes and styles created a nice dynamic,” he said. “You have Dana Woulfe’s abstract, geometric style with Greg Lamarche, a master a typography, GoFive’s culturally sensitive work meshing with a traditional muralist like Silvia Lopez Chavez. Then that curveball, Muro from Spain, who came and blew everybody away with the big anamorphic bridge.”
Quinonez said the placement of the new batch of murals was deliberate, with most going up in highly visible locations to draw folks in. Greg LaMarche’s “Choices” sits at a traffic choke point at the end of Herald Street; Indie184’s pop graffiti was chosen for the park’s entrance on Traveler Street; Muro’s tropical colors can be seen from Southie. Eventually, Quinonez said, every column in the 8-acre park will be painted.
In addition to doubling as a new park and gallery, Quinonez said he’s hopeful Underground will provide inspiration for Boston’s up and coming and underserved art community.
“The institutions in Boston are so strong, the MFA, the ICA, and the Gardner Museum for instance, and they bring in big name gallery artists,” he said. “But then you have this subculture of artists that are trying to be that next generation doing huge things. To give Boston a platform where you can showcase that talent in its raw form is extremely important.”
One of this year’s artists, Dana Woulfe, came to Boston for school and spent his younger years trying to evade graffiti busters before opening his own studio in 2012. While there is a greater push for public art in Boston, Woulfe said the city’s history with street art has been tough. Projects like this one, he hopes, are exposing people to new art and ideas from local people.
“Street Theory has been awesome about featuring local talent,” Woulfe said. “Too often these mural festivals prioritize the big out-of-town artists, and then throw in a couple locals for good measure, but Street Theory kind of does it the other way around. Give the locals a chance to shine on their own stage, while inviting a small group of outside big-name talent to drive more interest. It’s refreshing and empowering … maybe Boston artists won’t need to leave town to get some notoriety any more.”
According to Boston native Matthew Zaremba, a marketing director for Bodega, it’s important to keep the grassroots art movements and initiatives going. “We need more legal walls, and open workshops for the youth, to nurture the next generation of creators,” he said.
“Years ago, there was illegal graffiti all over I-93,” Quinonez said. “Now there’s murals and artwork from graffiti writers that used to get up around here during the 90s. I never thought as a graffiti writer I’d be painting a highway, a major highway, with permission, a blessing from MassDoT, and the backing of the developer. It’s a dream.”