FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — The Fall River skyline is transforming before drivers’ eyes as they approach the city from the Braga Bridge.
For years, the Herald News building advertised its location with a massive sign seen from the highway.
But not anymore.
On the week of July 18, the sign was painted over with an intricate and thoughtfully designed mural representing a large part of the culture of Fall River.
Portuguese Americans will quickly identify the Azulejo tiles, a unique blue and white tile design popular on the Iberian peninsula and the Azores.
This specific design of azulejos is spray-painted on by Diogo Machado, an artist from Portugal known as Add Fuel. He painted throughout Fall River’s days-long heat wave with the help of local artist Tracy Barboza.
On the ground level, the view from Pocasset Street where the building is located, you’ll notice a separate mural wrapping around the building in a way that compliments the azulejos’ nod to Fall River’s people.
Local artist Greg Pennisten’s bright flowers and designs mirror the textile designs created over time in Fall River – a nod to the city’s rich textile past and present.
This is part of the Viva Murals project, which is a partnership between city organizations and the non-profit, Beyond Walls.
The nonprofit is based out of Lynn, Massachusetts with years of experience transforming plain walls of buildings into artwork urban areas (especially in Gateway Cities) can be proud of.
The idea is that when residents are proud of their city in these ways, they take ownership of it and crime is reduced.
Viva Fall River and the Fall River Arts & Culture Coalition partnered with Beyond Walls for this project, which is largely crowdfunded.
Residents have been stopping by to admire the progress on the painting and have already donated thousands of dollars. Further, once the City raises $30,000, MassDevelopment will match it with $30,000 more.
Just a few blocks down the street, another mural is being painted through this collaboration, but with the help of Fall River students.
Artist Kevin Ledo, a Portuguese Canadian artist with family in the Fall River area, met with students at a summer camp at Doran Elementary School on Fountain Street.
With their permission, he photographed them playing and with one young girl’s permission, selected her image for his painting.
It’s much more than just a painting. Her face is seen popping up from the water, symbolic of how we are all connected by water around the world, according to the nonprofit organization The One Blue Sky Project.
Their mission is to show youth how similar we all are to each other, no matter where we live around the world. The students in the summer camp at Doran School will be connected to students at a school in Tierra Bomba, Cartagena, Colombia. They’ll send video messages to each other, and there will be a mural painted at the Colombian school, based on their connections.
The Doran School students will be painting the bottom part of Ledo’s mural to add their own designs to it.
Viva Fall River is hoping to further engage with the community by inviting them to go check out the murals in-person as they’re being completed.
On Friday, there will be a “View and Chew” food truck event at the Fall River Chamber of Commerce, which is directly across from Machado’s artwork.
From noon to 2 p.m., anyone interested can go and enjoy free food and cupcakes while watching Machado finish up his piece.