LOWELL – The Decatur Way Art and Poetry Gallery recently acquired the work of many young artists from Lowell, and that work is now on display along the narrow public space between Merrimack and Salem streets.
Four paintings created by students of Lowell Day Nursery were shown to the public on a recent cold and harsh December morning.
A troop of young artists and their teachers attended the event, making the 10-minute walk from school to Decatur Way under the watchful eye of teachers and using a rope to prevent latecomers.
Many kids literally got their hands on art before it was finished. Handprints dominate one of the paintings.
When asked what he liked about the art project, one boy shouted, âWe have to paint our hands. “
Once an alleyway, the walkway was a wild path of brush, weeds, lean trees and drug addicts when Dave Ouellette rediscovered it over a decade ago.
âYou wouldn’t believe the needles we found here,â said Ouellette, who is chair of the Acre Coalition to Improve Our Neighborhood and Dracut health worker.
Ouellette played with her brother in Decatur Alley when they were little. Seeing him again, the longtime Acre activist set out to do something for his condition.
Using saws and axes, ACTION members cut down trees and brush.
âIt took two years to get rid of the overgrowth,â Ouellette said.
ACTION has partnered with UMass Lowell and the City to make a difference. The opening of the University Crossing student center helped speed things up as well as the donation of land next to the center. This gift has become the entrance to the footbridge, a stylized wrought iron bridge.
For the city, the cleaning of the Decatur alley provided a solution to a storm water problem.
The new stormwater filtration system used porous concrete, which absorbs water, allowing it to return to the ground instead of accumulating on the pavement where it could accumulate contaminants and harm the environment.
After the alley was cleaned up, it was officially renamed the Decatur Way.
The four paintings by the artists of the Lowell Day Nursery and most other works are on permanent display along the walkway and protected from the rain, snow and winds of the Lowell weather. They are sealed against the elements by the use of plywood first primed with a water resistant paint, then artists use an all weather exterior paint to do their job.
The painting of the Puerto Rican community of Lowell, however, is from a scanned image of a painting that was transferred to metal. Over the years, artists have been asked to contribute to the gallery with something that reflects their community.
A painting from Lowell High School, as well as other schools and churches, is pictured in the gallery.
Ouellette received a phone call from Lina Gruca, Executive Director of Lowell Day Nursery, asking if the kids at the school could add artwork.
âIt went on for a few months,â he said. “But it’s here and can be enjoyed by anyone.”
So far, Decatur Way has not been vandalized.
âIt’s because everyone contributed to it. Everyone in the neighborhood is interested, âexplained Ouellette. âIt’s appreciated by everyone.
No one needs to tag it with graffiti because one of the best artists in the Lowell area has painted a mural before, he said.
âThe budget is minimal because everything is voluntary. And the (Department of Public Works) is doing a tremendous job of maintaining it, âOuellette said. “They went out of their way over the past few days to make sure he was ready for this presentation.”