The O’Maley Innovation Middle School campus setting is rather bucolic. There’s a line of apple trees that still bear fruit and suggest the original farm, playing fields are stepped down surrounded by marsh and pond, Dogtown stretches along one edge, and Pole Hill rises up across the way. Community volunteers and students have created lovely decorative gardens. Yes, the track needs work and the playing field could be upgraded to turf like Gloucester High School’s New Balance field at Newell Stadium. But it’s a beautiful spot to walk or catch a game. Ed Tedesco designed O’Maley in 1971. Although I believe the architect was quite sensitive to the setting, I understand how people criticize the exterior as harsh, or worse. “It feels like a prison!” exclaim some (and others joke. It is a middle school afterall.) You know what I see on the exterior when I come to O’Maley? Beautiful walls. Interesting shapes. Expansive public space ready for art and ideas.
O’Maley walls, photos from 2015
You can’t judge a book by its cover. OR can you? O’Maley has the potential for its shell to match the creative arts and legacy at its core. There are stunning historic murals from the 1930s and 40s in the Commons. The arts curriculum is valued and celebrated. The arts teachers are amazing. If there is any school in Massachusetts that sings out arts and legacy, let it be here. Monumental public art and street art abound in Gloucester.
Parsons Street before, after, and after
public art in Gloucester, MA and context collages
And not just for flat surfaces. Artists have suggested creative responses to Americord’s striated surface like a piano keys mural along the wall (a motif you may have seen elsewhere); others proposed a changing light installation when the cultural district designation was underway.
Stephanie Benenson’s temporary installation Harbor Voices at City Hall
Street art has become big business. Cities and towns around the world vie for renowned muralists in a competitive commercialized market with varying degrees of success.
I vote Former Alumni
O’Maley Innovation Middle School has the perfect walls for showcasing creative voices of former alumni who are art school grads (or currently enrolled)– professionally trained and inspired to leave a mark. Ever since the dynamite 18UP and Under 30 exhibition, supporters hoped to catalyze possibilities for these emerging artists. Murals taken to this scale warrant investments of $15,000 per artist per wall.
just a few of the grads…Chris Budrow | Kate Bresnahan | Jason Burroughs | Lexi Chipperini |Jon Cooney | Jeff Cluett | James Curcuru | Nicole Dahlmer | Leon Doucette | Alessia LoGrasso | Avery McNiff | Micah O’Conner| Mary Sullivan
Before I saw walls of possibility. I still see that, but now I imagine specific artists and I hope you do, too. There are plenty of walls to go around at O’Maley.
a few more international street art mural examples
After I saw a tiny Brian Murphy wire scupture, I pictured a monumental version for one of the walls around town.