Harvard i-lab project joins with MIT CoLab artist for community-sourced Back Bay mural

Image from Ernest M. English's website
Image from Ernest M. English's website

Starting at 11 a.m. on Monday, Ernest M. English, an artist based out of MIT’s Community Innovation Lab, will be unveiling an enormous canvas that will hang by the Boylston Street entrance to the Prudential Center.

However, in the morning, the piece of urban art will be far different than the piece that will eventually be displayed prominently in the Back Bay. 

That’s because English’s work doesn’t become fully realized until it is “finished” by members of the community. English creates what is in essence an enormous paint-by-numbers. He designs the artwork and then anyone who happens by the project on Monday will help fill in the color and complete the project.

The latest in what English calls the “Line of Life” series will hopefully be completed by the end of the day. It will be the largest installation English has done to date.

What is at the core of the project? “The power of collaboration in the community,” English said. “By doing this, people can relate to the idea that they can actually make things change in the community.”

This specific project will focus on the idea, “Don’t Forget to Love Life,” English added.

“I don’t want to ask people to live life or have it be us telling them,” he said. By playing some role in creating a piece of art that will be displayed prominently in Boston, English believes that people can achieve the idea of not forgetting to live and love life on their own. “They can have a deeper connection with the world around us,” English said.

Originally, the canvas was supposed to be 60 feet high, but had to be changed to 41 feet for a number of reasons.

For some perspective on what may be happening on Boylston Street on Monday, check out the video below:

English is collaborating with Liz Powers and ArtLifting, a group that empowers homeless and disabled artists, on the project. ArtLifting is part of the Harvard Innovation Lab startup incubator. The artists at ArtLifting helped English with the initial outline of the piece and will help organize at the Prudential Center.

“This is  a really unique project in that it is totally inclusive,” Powers said. “Anyone from a seven year old to an  80 year old can take part.”

Powers added that at some point this summer, ArtListing hopes to do a similar mural designed solely by its homeless and disabled artists.

Originally from New Orleans, English moved to Boston in early 2013 to join the MIT CoLab, part of the school’s department of urban studies and planning. Since his arrival in town, English has already gained notice, landing on Boston.com’s Top 25 innovators under 25 list.

Artist and Craftsman Supply in Cambridge donated all of the canvas and paint markers for the event. Boston Properties which manages the Prudential site, is donating the space.

Dennis Keohane was a Senior Staff Writer for BetaBoston.
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