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Boston-based muralist Laura DeDonato Wiatt integrated an existing rock wall into her design, which was created with community input.
July 14, 2017

UMass Boston, community partners team up on mural at Dorchester middle school


  • Boston
2016 Love Your Block Grant, National Grid, Paul Revere Transportation and UMass Boston community relations funded mural at John W. McCormack middle school

If you’re walking, driving, or riding past the John W. McCormack Middle School on Mt. Vernon Street these days, it’s hard to miss a new addition to the outside of the building. A new mural depicting life on Columbia Point and in Dorchester shows familiar places and even some notable people, like Queenette Santos, the unit director for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Dorchester.

The mural is the result of a collaboration between UMass Boston professor Joan Arches’s civic engagement students and the Harbor Point Outreach Partnership, an after-school tutoring and youth enrichment program at the Walter Denney Youth Center, which is staffed by students in the university’s service-learning classes and volunteers from the community.

Students in Arches’s fall 2015 class submitted a grant proposal to Love Your Block, a program that offers mini-grants for improvement projects in the Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan neighborhoods, for the creation of a mural that would bring community pride to the street. The mural was one of six projects to receive grant funding, which is jointly awarded by the City of Boston,, and Americorps.

Thanks to additional funding from National Grid, Paul Revere Transportation, and UMass Boston’s Office of Community Relations, Boston-based muralist Laura DeDonato Wiatt was able to design the mural last fall. The piece was installed on the school last month. Wiatt integrated an existing rock wall into her design. 

“My favorite part is people’s reactions to the cutouts to make them come closer to see if they are real – the little kid and the climber – and then they actually come and see the mural and spend time looking at it. It kind of draws them in,” Wiatt said.

Lindsey Connors, who earned a bachelor’s degree in community development in May, worked as a liaison to Wiatt. She explained why food is part of the mural.

“We went out with the kids [from the Walter Denney Youth Center] and did on-street interviews, asking people about their culture and what they think about community, and food was a huge part, so we had to include chicken in there,” Connors said.

“It’s kind of like a picnic and they’re inviting you to join. Grab a plate,” Wiatt said.

Arches is a professor in the College of Education and Human Development’s Curriculum and Instruction Department.

“It met all our goals. It’s just beautiful,” Arches said.

Pictured below from left to right: Laura DeDonato Wiatt, Queenette Santos, Joan Arches, Lindsey Connors, and Community Relations Director Phil Carver.