Al Wilson, Founder and Executive Director of Beyond Walls, discusses their work to create public art installations in Lynn, MA. He shares how perceptions were torn down as part of this process, bringing people into downtown and changing the image and ethos around this diverse and vibrant city.
Al Wilson is the Founder and Executive Director of Beyond Walls, a creative placemaking agency based in Lynn, Massachusetts whose mission is to activate public space to strengthen communities. In 2016, Al and a robust volunteer committee launched a grass-roots effort to implement four inaugural large scale public art installations in downtown Lynn, a post-industrial city located just 10 miles north of Boston. Inspired by projects in Brooklyn, New York; Philadelphia, PA; Kings Cross, London; and Wynwood, Miami, Al recognized Lynn’s rich history, distinctive architecture, and burgeoning arts and cultural district as the perfect landscape in which to test the creative economy.
In response to community input, which highlighted the need for increased walkability and more public art, Beyond Walls facilitated a Mural Festival with internationally renowned artists, implemented dynamic LED Lighting under three dark underpasses, installed 12 vintage neon artworks on dimly lit street corners, and created a sculpture paying homage to the city’s industrial past. Inaugural projects attracted significant media attention. The 2017 Mural Festival alone garnered in excess of 75 positive news stories celebrating both Beyond Walls and the city, made 4.5 million impressions on social media, and boasted 5,000 visitors. A post festival study and survey found local business owners citing increased foot traffic in their establishments and residents returning to the downtown area, deeming it a safer environment to buy a coffee, go on a date, and generally work, shop, and play. Al now leads a team of three who have backgrounds in city planning, arts administration, and fundraising. Building on the Beyond Walls model, Al and his team will continue to better the public realm and increase safety and economic vitality through the implementation of major art installations and programming that reflect the interests and cultural make up of communities served.
Beyond Walls 2017 Mural Festival Recap
Beyond Walls: Underpass Lighting