History Professor, Students Provide Added Perspective in Website of City Murals

(October 3, 2018)

The recent explosion of vibrant street art and murals throughout Worcester had associate teaching professor Joseph Cullon and a team of students wondering how to connect this celebration of public art with the city’s historical and cultural growth.

The answer: an interactive mural tour for POW! WOW! Worcester––a city-wide effort to bring in more cultural enrichment and artistic vitality by recruiting local, national, and international artists to paint murals on walls through the city.

The website created by Cullon, Sarah Kwatinetz ‘21, and Brittany Goldstein ’21 over the summer is an extensive, heavily researched catalog of the POW! WOW! murals painted at 22 locations in 2016 and 2017. It employs brilliant photos, archival images of the buildings on which the artwork is painted, text describing the historical and cultural significance of mural locations, links to artists’ web pages, and interactive digital maps that locate and provide directions to the sites.

They are now in the process of finalizing information about the most recent murals, created between August 31 and September 9 by 32 artists on 27 outdoor surfaces at 17 sites.

“The reason we undertook this is we often think of things in separate boxes,” says Cullon. “History is often narrated separately from current cultural events. We’re trying to create a system that brings together the conversation and extends it so it’s not just about the moment of the present but it also connects to the city’s past.”

This project is part of Digital Worcester, a program that uses the Internet and other digital tools to preserve and make accessible documents, photos, and other materials pertaining to the city’s past. Cullon is director of Digital Worcester, which is sponsored by WPI’s Department of Humanities and Arts and the Worcester Historical Museum. Crucial support for Digital Worcester also comes from Cullon’s National Endowment for the Humanities grant to create an urban humanities cluster at WPI.

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