FALL RIVER — Murals that turn local pride into public street art have been springing up across Fall River the last few years, and another is coming soon to brighten up the view — this one honoring world-renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.
Three of Fall River’s parks, including its two largest, are the work of Olmsted and the firm passed on to his descendants. Chandler Hearn and Katrina Myers of the Fall River Arts Project recently received the OK from the city Board of Park Commissioners to paint a mural inspired by Olmsted and his work in Kennedy Park.
“We’ve been going back and forth with them since the fall of last year, just getting designs, talking to different councils and such,” Hearn said. “We stayed on it.”
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Hearn and Myers formed the group to promote public arts in the community. Last fall, the two held a Halloween parade at Kennedy Park. The partners, both artists, have a studio in the former Oliver Chace Thread Mill building at 505 Bay St., steps from the park.
The park board allowed them to paint the mural on the west-facing side of the city’s maintenance building on Bradford Avenue. Hearn said the plan is to start work later in June and be finished by July.
Both Myers and Hearn will be doing the work themselves, he said — “and hopefully a couple of other muralist friends … depending on finances, we can be able to hire another one or two people.
“We’d like to get it done in the course of a few days,” Hearn added, saying the linework might take two days, with filling in and detail work to follow.
The two received a $3,000 grant from the Fall River Cultural Council to buy materials and complete the work, and said they may be looking for additional private financing to supplement the cost.
As for the design, Hearn and Myers said it would likely be inspired by Olmsted’s original drawings and notes for the park, with a view of what Olmsted might have seen during his surveying trips to Fall River — the idea, Hearn said, to be “looking through time.”
“And then have a QR code that will link back to a brief history of Olmsted and company in Fall River and different projects they’ve done,” Hearn said.
Could there be more Olmsted murals in Fall River?
Olmsted and his firm were founded on the principles of using an area’s natural topography to create naturally flowing public spaces, often with curved, winding paths that encourage people to interact with the area in a way different from the gridded streets of a city. The firm Olmsted started in 1857 in New York became highly sought-after for its elegant designs, including Central Park in Manhattan. He eventually relocated to the Boston area, where he’d designed the Emerald Necklace parks. Upon his retirement in 1897, his sons took over the firm. Olmsted died in 1903, but the firm was in business until 1979.
Olmsted himself visited Fall River in the late 1860s and designed much of Kennedy Park himself — what was then known as South Park, between South Main Street and Broadway, laid out in 1871. His sons took over the project after the turn of the 20th century and designed the park from Broadway to the Taunton River.
The firm also designed several other projects in Fall River, from North and Ruggles parks to pocket parks and private landscapes. Hearn and Myers said they’ve been asked by board members if they have plans to honor Olmsted at those other locations.
“We’d love to … One of the main things that Fall River Arts Project wants to do is to make every piece that we do somewhat activating and not a passive experience. So you do something that makes it a walking tour,” Hearn said, or a sort of citywide scavenger hunt that could lead visitors from one park to the other.
“We have big ideas, but one thing at a time.”
Dan Medeiros can be reached at email@example.com. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Herald News today.
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