A neighborhood canvas

Mike LaBella - Eagle Tribune

December 9th, 2020

HAVERHILL — Alexander Golob looks for opportunities to celebrate communities and bring them together through his art.


An immigrant mural that he painted on the side of the Garibaldi Club building on downtown Washington Street was his way of honoring past and present immigrants to Haverhill — visually highlighting each person's journey and how they are related by their shared experience.


Golob has unveiled his latest effort: A mural on the side of a building at 217 Washington St. that celebrates inclusion, equity and diversity at this gateway to the Mount Washington neighborhood. It is an area rich with working class people of various cultures, including a large Latino population.


"Art has a unique power to lift people up both spiritually and physically, and can empower people," Golob said. "For me, it's important to find as many ways as possible to bring art to where people live, rather than ask them to attend a gallery.


"When you create little bits of public art, it becomes part of the environment and a celebration of human expression," he said.


During a recent event to show off the new art work, Kat Everett of POSE Inc., a community organization in the Mount Washington neighborhood, called the mural a "beautiful project that celebrates the diversity of Haverhill."


"I love how vibrant and colorful it is and the diversity of artists who were able to come together to create this project," she said.


More than a year ago, Golob, who lives in Wellesley, got together with Steve Pascoe, a real estate agent and developer who owns the building next to the newly opened Gerson Building, a veterans housing complex. The buildings are on Washington Street at the entrance to the Mount Washington neighborhood. Pascoe offered the side of his building as the canvas for a mural.


"Steve cares about creating community and is committed to commissioning new panels (that will add to the art work on the side of the building) every year so it will grow and ensure a continued investment in local artists," Golob said.


Golob, 26, created the main mural that was enhanced with panels created by four local artists. The project — called Mount Washington Artist Alley — was paid for by money from Pascoe and a grant from the Haverhill Cultural Council.


"Originally, we were planning a folk-art-inspired piece like at the Garibaldi Club. Then the pandemic happened," Golob said. "People were feeling a bit unmoored and unsettled and being separated from each other, so the mural evolved into something more joyous that is bursting with more vibrant colors.


"I went with (the theme of) a children's book, reflecting children of color and inspired with childish joy and imagination," he said of the large mural he painted on the side of the building. "Rather than focusing on describing the world as it is, this imagines how the world could be ... a bright new future while adhering to the theme of diversity, equity and inclusion."


Each of the other artists — Sopheaklizabeth So and Sylvestre Telfort of Haverhill, Haverhill High School senior Madison Walsh and Yenny Hernandez of Salem, Massachusetts — created images on 4-by-4-foot architectural panels. The images display themes of diversity, inclusion and equity.


The panels were attached to the building's brick wall at eye level and complement Golob's more expansive main mural.


"Some used text, some used representational imagery and symbols and they all used different brush strokes and color palettes," Golob said. "We're currently in talks about enhancing the alley with things such as benches and lighting, and maybe modifying some fencing."


The artists were chosen for the project by a committee of arts and community leaders, including state Rep. Andy Vargas, Kat Everett, Keith Boucher of the MakeIT Haverhill organization, Hailey Moschella of the Switchboard art gallery, Erin Padilla of the Creative Haverhill organization, community member Mirca Mejias, as well as Golob and Pascoe.


Golob is working with Boucher and three Haverhill High art students on a mural project for the exterior of MakeIT Haverhill, a job skills training center on Washington Street.


"You can't create something everyone will like,'' Golob said, "but it's really important to fund multiple works of art to better represent the tastes and interests of everyone.''


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