Naturally, I was feeling homesick for England.
I even wrote about it in my other blog (read here). I missed how funky and artsy the cities were. Upon my first few weeks of living near Worcester, a small city in Massachusetts, I believed I would feel the absence of an urban artsy vibe. But then, look again. Would you believe it? Worcester hosted an international mural festival, called Pow! Wow!
In England, my family and I visited a coastal city called Bristol which is the hometown to renowned street-artist Banksy. We took a tour entitled, “From Blackbeard to Banksy,” led by local artist Duncan McKellar, and learned about, not only the city’s pirate mythologies, but also its street-art pieces, especially those which were part of Upfest. Upfest is Europe’s largest street art and graffiti festival and, like Pow! Wow!, it features licensed street art on buildings, alleyway walls, and even on the ground.
Just when I thought I left artsy-cool cities behind, Worcester also bared its brick walls to street artists.
While my mom and I were admiring Arlin’s piece on the Palladium, we ran into Nickie Robinson, a street-art journalist from Quebec who travels far and wide to research and write on street-art festivals.
She and my mom got to talking about New York City and about how so many of its neighborhoods have been fully gentrified. Although, Nickie alluded to Worcester being on its way to following suit, it certainly isn’t like New York.
Worcester used to be an industrial city but now, the industries have declined and it’s become gritty, dangerous, and segregated. At least that’s what people are telling me. A guy I work with advised me against walking downtown by myself even during the day because of gang violence. Driving through the city, I’ve passed abandoned buildings and closed storefronts, with homeless people lingering outside.
But Pow! Wow! is changing the setting and thus, the vibe. As my mom and I join other members of the community in admiring the murals, we also notice the buildings, how they’re built with the old wine-colored brick that you can’t find anymore, what they used to be, what they’re used for now.
We notice the city. Street-art festivals make you do that. For Worcester, the tall, gleaming murals restore in it a sense of value.
Rachel Noelle is a writer based in Worcester. Read about her here.