#MadeByWomen Street Art Tour in Cambridge, MA

Central Square is Cambridge’s traditional Downtown, originated in the late 18th century and still a vibrant and cultural area.
The public art scene started in the 1980s, when murals and sculptures installed in the area, mostly by male artists.

These days, street art is part of the “renewal” process the city center is going through. A collaboration between business owners, real estate agencies, and residents has made efforts to fund-raise and facilitate the creation of new large-scale murals in the area, and among the artists who benefit from these developments, are interesting female muralists.

In this itinerary, we highlight the artworks #MadeByWomen in the Central Square area, a fun place to wander around, discover new street art pieces, or grab a bite in one of the local restaurants. All the works can be seen within a 10 minutes walk radius around the Central Subway Station on Massachusetts Avenue.

1. “Multicultural Manifestoes” by Ritsuko Taho.
Massachusetts Ave. and Prospect St.

 

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At the heart of Central Square is a sculptural art installation created in 1997 by Japanese artist Ritsuko Taho, named “Multicultural Manifestoes”, capturing the hopes of local residents.

The artist spent five months collecting the “dream statements” in public meetings, workshops, and “dream collection boxes” around the Square. She then inscribed selected dreams on brass cylinders.
The statements range from personal ambitions (like becoming a dancer or finishing college) to goals for the world (like ending racism).

Another element in the installation is three pillars of frosted glass bearing the word “dream” in 48 languages.



2. “Pleasant Street: A Retrospective” by Vanessa Platacis.
4 Pleasant St.

 

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This 16ft by 40ft mural is actually a retrospective solo exhibition of artist Vanessa Platacis (born in 1973). It brings together dozens of her stencil paintings into one composition.
With its delicate aesthetics, the work looks like white lace patterns on a brick wall.

This work marks Platacis return to street art, after more than a decade of focusing on gallery work. Until 2007, she used to operate in the local street art scene under the pseudonym #PIXNIT.
“My process involves appropriating imagery from the decorative arts and from multiple histories and then applying existing methodologies of contemporary art practice.”

 

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The youngest artist commissioned for the project is artist Lena McCarthy, who was 26 at the time of painting her Central Square mural. She obtained her BFA in Painting from Boston University and later lived two years in Santiago, Chile.
The time spent in Chile has inspired her to be active in the public art scene.

In this work, which is located behind Pandemonium Books, she used images of nature – butterflies, flowers, shells, a spider – with a human heart in the middle, which grows tree branches.
“A lot of my work is connected to femininity, what it means to me, and what it means to be a women right now. The inspiration behind the mural was to really show what feminine power would look like”, she explained in an interview in 2019.

4. “Transcend” by Julia “Julz” Roth and Cedric “Vise1” Douglas.
Green St.

 

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Julia “Julz” Roth is a Boston based artist and art therapist. On this commission, she collaborated with her partner in life and art, Cedric “Vise1” Douglas. The couple received a 400ft concrete grey three-story wall.

Julz did a large colorful composition, and Vise1 painted a pair of eyes in black and white.
“From the moment we met, we have been creating together. You know what they say: ‘couples who spray together slay together’”, she wrote in her Instagram post of the mural.

5. “Queendom” by MARKA27.
Corner of Massachusetts Ave. and Pearl St.

 

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This mural was not created by a woman, but with a powerful name such as “Queendom”, it must be part of the list.

Victor “MARKA27” Quinonez was commissioned to paint over a graffiti-tagged wall in Central Square. The mural he created looks like a surreal collage, with a beautiful woman’s face in its center.

He described in a recent interview the idea behind the mural: “I really wanted to celebrate African-American culture and women’s empowerment. It’s important that a young girl can look up and see someone in her lightness, bigger than life with beautiful colors, and animals & patterns associated with African culture. I hope my mural helps with the stereotype of Massachusetts and New England being such a racist place”.



6. Untitled by Allison Bamcat and Brian Butler.
Graffiti Alley.

 

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Another recent artwork in the Graffiti Alley was created by artist Allison Bamcat with her fellow from art school, Brian Butler. The two created a playful and surreal image, including a sock with teeth and a teapot with sunglasses.

Allison Bamcat is a contemporary artist who uses acidic color in her paintings to elicit feelings of her neon, nineties-childhood in Los Angeles, “surrounded by sun-bleached, cheap plastic dolls and doodled-on stuffed toys”.

7. Untitled by Marisa Kang.
Graffiti Alley.

 

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Graffiti Alley is a unique local landmark – operating as an open street gallery since 2007. It starts on the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Pearl Street. It is worth a visit on its own, with dozens of diverse artworks, that can change every day. Unlike the Central Square commissioned murals, here, the artworks are created on a self-motivated basis.

This narrow outdoor corridor is considered as an ever-evolving art installation. Since the alley is the only place in the Greater Boston area where graffiti artists can paint without fear of being arrested, the artworks often are repainted after a few days to give room for new artwork.

One of the recent works in the alley is a yellow and turquoise depiction of the sun with a face. It was created by New Jersey-born visual artist and musician Marisa Kang.

8. “Belonging” by Shilo Shiv Suleman.
Corner of Columbia St. and Massachusetts Ave.

This mural has a special story behind it – it was created as part of the “Art in Public Space” studio at NuVu innovation school for middle and high school students. The initiative is led by artist Shilo Shiv Suleman.
The mural was a participatory art piece made by students and residents of Cambridge.

The central theme of the mural, located on the side of Desi Dhaba restaurant, is River Charles and the way it threads Boston’s diverse groups together. Presented in the center of the piece is a multi-racial person, with flowers growing out of her chest. The mural explores the question “What makes us feel like we belong?”.

Artist Shilo Shiv Suleman (born in 1989) is an Indian contemporary illustrator with interest in magical realism and art for social change. Her first illustrated children’s book was published when she was 16, and in 2012 she founded “Fearless Collective” which painted participatory murals around the world.
She was inspired by her mother, Nilofer Suleman, who is a contemporary painter.

9. “For Cambridge With Love From Nepal” by Sneha Shrestha aka Imagine.
Lafayette Square.

 

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Street artist Sneha Shrestha is operating under the name Imagine (which is her mother’s name translated into English). She was born in Kathmandu, Nepal and graduated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education with a Master’s Degree.

In her work, she combines “mindful mantras in her native language and meshes the aesthetics of Sanskrit scriptures with American graffiti influences”.

In this work, she took on the challenge of painting a mural on 60ft-tall MIT building in Cambridge. The mural is based on a poetic Nepalese quote, that translates as “Success is defined by what’s in your heart and not your background”.

Want Some More?

The Cambridge Central Square Business Association have more plans for public art creation. Watch out for the electric boxes in the area that will be painted over by local youth.
Also, more walls were identified as canvases for large scale murals. It’s worth following their social media for updates.

Want to explore Cambridge area deeper?
Check out some guided tours about women in this area.

More things to do in this area:

MIT Museum – open daily and offers different exhibitions about different fields, as science, arts, architecture, and more.
265 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA.
For more information, check the museum website.

Harvard Yard – explore the beautiful campus of Harvard, its large open areas with historic buildings. Nearby Harvard is Radcliffe college that was founded by Elizabeth Cabot for women and later merge into Harvard.

For more information about women in street art in the Greater Boston area, check out the 2017 book “Boston Murals” by Christine Verret (click to purchase). It is based on a one-woman passionate and ambitious research of all Boston murals.
Verret photographed nearly every mural in the city. With the help of her teenage son, she published her research into a book, including about 250 artists.

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