Activate Mill Street by Various Local Artists, 2019, mixed media
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Activate Mill Street is a recently rejuvenated alley in downtown Fitchburg. It was revamped in the summer of 2019. This collection of public art works, comprised of many different mediums by multiple artists, is designed to inspire community and bring life back to this popular alleyway, a home to events of all kinds for the Fitchburg community.
Photo provided by Activate Mill Street Facebook Page
Photo by Serena Folding
Photo by Daniel Monahan
Photo by Jay Troy
Backstory and Context
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Activate Mill Street is a collective art space in Fitchburg’s downtown area. It is a gathering place where the community can listen to live music, browse art, and take time to relax. Mill Street has been a forgotten alleyway in Fitchburg for a long time, that is, until the summer of 2019. The goal was to rejuvenate it and foster community in this area. The installation of the artworks displayed on Mill Street created a lively and vibrant energy. Many of the artworks displayed were also created by local artists to carry on the energy of community and authenticity.
One artist, Monique Guthrie, created a mural of a woman fighting off a dragon. Dragons are found in nearly every culture, so this is used in her art to encourage diversity in the community and connect the various cultures in Fitchburg. The artist chose to create this image because it displays a powerful woman fighting and not giving up regardless of the struggles she faces. The idea to make a woman of color the main focus was intentional by Guthrie. She explains, “...knowing that my mural was going to be in Fitchburg I really wanted to showcase a person of color to be the icon in the image I drew. I thought it would be really cool for some little girl in Fitchburg to look up at my mural and see themselves in it.” Guthrie is aware that the representation of different races and cultures is very important. She expressed her experiences growing up and seeing characters that looked like her everywhere and how she wants the same for other girls growing up in the area.
Nayda Cuevas is another artist who worked on Activate Mill Street. Her artwork Adios: Puerto Ricans Always In Migration displays a mother giving her child a hug goodbye. The child is leaving to find better opportunities, making this farewell bittersweet. Adios fits well on Mill Street as it displays other powerful people of color and the importance of diversity in the Fitchburg community. Many people in the community are able to find themselves in this painting just as they can with Guthrie’s.
In addition to all of the current paintings, a new installation was recently added in 2021, Break the Pattern. This art project was done by local artists Justin Tarbell, Eugene Finney and Thomas Moser. Break the Pattern consists of colorfully painted cubes on panels that cover the windows on the 350-356 Main St. building in the Mill Street corridor. The concept of the project was creativity, exploring possibilities, and overcoming adversity. Finney explained how these strong traits are “a true testament to their [Tarbell and Moser] character and demonstration of the spirit of Fitchburg.” Tarbell exclaims, “It’s my little haiku to the city that I call home.”
Activate Mill Street promotes universal inclusion and acceptance. It is a place of celebration, creativity, and fun for all. Events scheduled to take place in the performance area, at the corner of Mill Street and Boulder Drive, include yoga, dance, and concerts. The revision of the alleyway is symbolic of Fitchburg’s attributes within the community and shines light on Fitchburg’s beauty.
Activate Mill Street Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/activatemillst/
Writer: Meaghan Carney
Speaker: Ryan Normand