Allston Commissions Wellesley Art Professor to Create Outdoor Mural

Allston Commissions Wellesley Art Professor to Create Outdoor Mural
Photo provided by Photo by Jeremy Fraga
March 29, 2017

Visitors and passers-by at 395 Western Avenue in Allston, Mass., will find an artful addition to the landscape: David Teng Olsen, assistant professor of art at Wellesley, has completed a 170-foot-long outdoor mural titled “Evo” that neighboring Boston College’s newspaper The Heights described as “thought-provoking” and “a vibrant, visual masterpiece.”

Evo is short for evolution, a reference to Allston’s history as a railway and industrial hub and its more recent movement toward innovation and commercial activity. The mural was commissioned by community initiatives, and its sponsors include Zone 3, a creative urban planning program run through Harvard University and Graffito SP, and the commercial real estate group Isenberg Projects.

Originally planned as a six-month project, the timeline was later condensed to three months. The mural was painted in just eight days during one of the area’s coldest periods in January (several Wellesley students took advantage of Wintersession to assist in its completion). In temperatures that fell to as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit, Olsen was forced to improvise a homemade system of covers and heaters to keep the paint from freezing in the cans.

Despite the weather, locals frequently stopped to chat with Olsen and tell him stories of the area while he worked, and those conversations inspired some of Olsen’s freestyle artwork. In a video interview he explained, “Although you might not be able to recognize anybody, there are images and forms that come directly from people I was interacting with.”

Emily Isenberg of Isenberg Projects connected Olsen with Charlesview Community’s after-school program, located down the street from the mural, where he conducted a workshop with the children. Coloring books based on the mural allowed the young artists to put their own spin on Olsen’s work. The workshop also gave the kids an opportunity to talk to a working artist, prompting one to ask, “Are you telling me I can get paid to have fun when I grow up?”

Photos courtesy of Jeremy Fraga.