New ‘Parklet’ Features Grant-Funded Mural by Local Artist

Installation finished on Sunday for ‘Clean Energy Now’ –a mural created by local artist Maria Lobo on a grant initiative from Generation180 to inspire voters on environmental issues — and will be the backdrop to Arlington’s latest outdoor parklet, developed in partnership with the Town of Arlington’s “Shared Streets” initiative and building owner Cynthia Pasciuto. The mural is located on the Lucky Dragon Restaurant on Medford Street in the Arlington Cultural District.

The Town was recently awarded a MassDOT Shared Streets grant to install this parklet on Medford Street and Park Terrace. The roadway will be shut down to turn the area into a pedestrian plaza, accommodating outdoor seating. Lobo’s art graces the wall and broadcasts an important message to the community: Vote to create a beautiful tomorrow!

ArtsArlington caught up with Artist Maria Lobo to find out more about the project:

Tell us about your background, travel, and mural art in particular.

Hi, I’m Maria, an Arlingtonian since elementary school. Prior to moving to Arlington, my family and I lived in a coastal Australian town on the lower Great Barrier Reef, so environmentalism and living with nature has been part of my education since an early age. I went to MassArt for Graphic Design and graduated in 2015, after which I sold solar panels in Australia for a year before going to China on a Fulbright Hays grant. I have had the opportunity to work on several mural projects in the past: one for a project near Alewife that will be going up soon, several in China, and a really fun multi-level-warehouse-sized mural in Taiwan that I worked on under the guidance of Philadelphia-based artist Lily Yeh. I’ve recently returned to Arlington after several years in China working towards my masters in Ethnology, and am currently looking for design jobs in the Boston area. I spend a lot of time thinking about alternative living frameworks, community building, and equitable access to resources, because of time spent traveling and living alongside locals in rural agrarian and pastoral areas. I love large-scale public art, so I’m really excited to have been able to collaborate with the town on this project and to do more mural work in the future!

What is your inspiration for this particular design?

My greatest inspiration is the power of nature, and the various ways that I have seen people living in harmony with nature all across the world. I spent the February before last staying with a TIbetan friend of mine in her traditionally nomadic-pastoral hometown, and as we made the multi-day bus-train journey back to the city we were living in, watching the landscapes morph into high-rises, we talked about the ways things have changed in both of our lives and the shifts we see in the environments around us: physically, socially, and spiritually. Every aspect of our lives exist as part of an interconnected ecosystem, we see this with the recent covid pandemic and its resultant effect on global supply chains, unemployment, and parents juggling with kids being out of school. My goal in the creation of this mural is to remind people of the feeling of being at peace in nature, and the expansive power of the natural world around us. At such a time where we are bombarded by mixed messaging, it is easy to hyperfocus and exist in our own digital-bubbles of our own worlds. It is my hope that this parklet, with the mural as its backdrop, will bring the community together in physical space, brighten up people’s days, and inspire us all to collectively create a beautiful tomorrow with a clean Earth.

Who was involved in helping you plan, create, fund, and install the project?

This project was made possible thanks to a grant I received from clean energy nonprofit Generation180. They had a call for artists to create work in support of clean energy pre-election to inspire and remind voters to vote with the environment in mind. I was working with Matt Turner over at Generation180 and am grateful for his support, enthusiasm, and patience! After receiving the grant, I reached out to Arlington Commision for Arts and Culture Commissioner Adria Arch, who helped connect me with Ken Pruitt (Town Energy Manager), Ali Carter (Economic Development Coordinator), and Stewart Ikeda (Arlington Commission for Arts & Culture Co-Chair), who are all absolute rockstars! We all worked together to find a suitable place in town for the mural. Cynthia Pasciuto is the property owner who graciously allowed us to hang the banner on her wall. The banner was printed by Anthony Nguyen from Arlington Town and Banner, over at 110 Mass Ave– I definitely suggest going to him for any banner printing needs! Stewart Ikeda helped with the install, alongside my superstar team of family and friends: Lewis Weitzman (Weitzman Renovations), my mom and her partner, Kathy Lobo and Mike Hirsch, and my ever-patient boyfriend Jef Gonzalez. And of course, no install would be complete without nourishment from Gail Ann’s Coffee Shop