“When a wall becomes a bridge.”
In August 2022, City Mosaic and Springfield Massachusetts artist John Simpson unveiled a 5-story masterpiece on the historic Driscoll building on Worthington Street in downtown Springfield, MA. The mural is emblematic of the transformation and renaissance of the city. This effort, the biggest project to date by City Mosaic, involved re-creating wall advertising that was on the building over 60 years ago when it was home to Bloom’s Photo Supply. The faded lines and images on the wall were only visible enough to know something more substantial lived on this wall long ago, but exactly what these “ghost images” were, was hard to say until now.
City Mosaic has completed multiple public art projects in Springfield over the past two decades that have been very well received by residents, businesses, and the public. Each time we complete a new mural project, the public comes to see and experience it by taking pictures in front of them and interacting with the images on the wall.
The public response was so great that we soon realized this work needed to continue throughout the city. Repeatedly, boarded up and vacant buildings that were taken over by blight were transformed into magical works of art that engaged the viewer. The murals became a point of civic pride and were included in advertising campaigns for the City of Springfield, MGM, and others. In this way, the artwork on the walls became a bridge to economic development, as new development in residential and retail is now being made on some of these formerly vacant and boarded up buildings throughout downtown.
Several years ago, John and I were approached by State Representative Sean Curran who thought it would be a great idea to paint a mural and restoration on a building on Worthington Street, whose wall faces the neighborhood which was once a thriving entertainment district. At the time, we did not feel that doing a restoration was possible, as the work involved many hours of intense discipline in restoration techniques, research, and archaeology. The lines on the wall were so faded that it was almost impossible to tell what they were. After several meetings and listening to members of the Historical Commission, who spoke to us repeatedly and passionately about the intrinsic value of the old advertisements and the historic value they represented, we changed our minds.
John and I both sensed that there was something very important lurking behind the filth and deteriorated masonry on this wall. John felt that he had a duty to preserve this incredible period of time in Springfield’s history and bring the wall back to its former glory. If he painted over these advertisements, they would be lost forever. Ultimately, we decided to bring the ghost images back to life, thereby taking a part of Springfield’s past and painting a bridge to its future – with the hope that Springfield could relive the glory days of long ago.
Such a massive canvas that had stood so long, with a glimmer of the past and hope for the future, bringing new economic life to this neighborhood. And someday, in the distant future, viewers will reimagine this wall as we have and perhaps restore it once again. And by doing so, perpetuate the memory of the once faded glimmer of long ago.
The wall is no longer a wall. It is a piece of art, and it is more than just art. It is a window to the past, a vibrant, colorful part of the present, and a bridge to the future.