||||| the north street soundwave project |||||
Some of you reading this may know that since August I have been engaged in painting a GIGANTIC mural on North Street in Northampton with some of my fellow artists from C3, a Northampton-based Creative Community Collective that I’ve been a part of for 3 years. For personal sanity, time management and other life reasons, I have decided to end my work with C3 after the completion of the mural. In my time with C3 I have met and worked with some incredible, inspiring and creative people and helped keep the flame of thoughtful multi-disciplinary creativity alive in this town. I can’t imagine a better way to go out with a bang than this project.
Earlier this year, C3 was approached by Ward 3 City Councilor Owen Freeman-Daniels with a proposal that we paint a mural on the wall under the porn shop(a new and controversial addition to the neighborhood) on the short stretch of North Street that connects King Street to Market Street. Darya Diamond, a Hampshire College student and our intern at the time, eagerly decided to take the reins as our Project Leader, with myself, Dana Wilde, and Carolyn Clayton as her crew. Most of us had been a part of C3 together for a while before that, but had never had the chance to work collaboratively on a project that engaged each of our visual art skills.
We recognized the wall as a site of nostalgia, emphasized by the faded, graffitied mural that had been originally painted in the 70s by the owner of Northampton Electric, the original tenant of where the aforementioned controversial shop is now. The street is also a cross-point between all different forms of transit: commuters in cars taking the shortcut around downtown, cyclists on the bike path bridge over the street, and trains crossing over a parallel bridge as they have been for decades.
We all got hooked on the idea of capturing the unique sounds of this street, whose crosshatching of transportation, residential and commercial buildings and rich history make it a truly distinctive and magical corridor. We decided to record sound from the street using an iPhone, and were immediately captivated by the soundwave that the recording app produced. From that idea grew the Final Plan: to record 24 hours of sound from under the railroad bridge, right above the spot where the mural would be painted, and translate it into a mural that would run the length of the 126-ft wall. After much trial and error, the 24 hours were captured, an endeavor that we can truly thank Carolyn’s multidisciplinary skills and persistence for (and Jazer Giles, for letting us use his sound equipment!). And thus, the soundwave was born.
We began by marking out a center line with the help of a couple professionals, no small feat as the ground under the wall is uneven and the wall itself gradually changes size. We then painted the top yellow and the bottom gray.
Then came the most excruciating step: marking the wall precisely based on printouts of the wave with with painter’s tape and painting a dark purple around it. We cut our printouts into individual hours and worked hour by hour. It was with this step that we realized we were completely crazy, but we couldn’t be more please with the accuracy and sharpness of the end result.
We then painted a smaller turquoise wave in the center, my favorite part because we eyeballed the painting without using tape, and turquoise happens to be one of my favorite colors.
Then, stenciled numbers were added to mark the hours.
We have spent countless painstaking hours translating the soundwave into a stunning visual experience.When we started painting the mural, it was mid-August and we were wearing shorts and tank tops, constantly applying sunblock. Now it’s Fall, and as the leaves change around the mural it is becoming a new iteration of itself as we apply the final touches. My favorite part of painting the mural is what I always have loved about public art – having conversations with people as they pass by. The concept we chose is universally comprehensible no matter who the spectator is, and for that reason I think this mural is a triumph for our community.
I invite you to please join us as we celebrate the completion of this project and give thanks to our volunteers and collaborators on Saturday, November 3rd from 1-3PM. For more details and to RSVP please see the Facebook event at https://www.facebook.com/events/300606810052794/. Please bring a couple dollars to donate to our efforts! The money will go to paying the artists, and perhaps even installing lighting lighting over the mural to discourage vandalism.
See VIDEO of the process & a short interview, thanks to NCTV, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9ffYUl_rjA&feature=youtu.be