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New Needham mural a community effort

By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff

Type in "Red Wing Bay" into a GPS-enabled device. You’ll get directions to a road by the Needham-Dover border. There, you will find a section of the rail trail. Turn onto the parking lot beside the Charles River and you’ll be one step closer to a brand new mural decorating a portion of the rail trail fence.

The idea for the mural began when a resident approached Needham Youth & Family Services and asked if their volunteers could do a clean-up of the fence. For years, it had collected graffiti - some of it being far less family-friendly than one might expect along a leisurely path by the Charles. Youth & Family Services Director Sara Shine immediately knew that the project would be good for the entire community and got to work on making a plan.

“Bringing attention to it," recalled Shine, "led to attention exploding in town.”

Soon, Shine and art therapist Megan Carleton presented their ideas to the Needham Select Board for approval. The design separated each section of the fence to give space for different ideas for the murals. Included in the mural plans were a number of different geometric designs, a graffiti tribute, and messages reminding viewers to be kind and to unite as a community. “The design really evolved from our initial plan,” explained Shine. There were some minor changes to the original design after suggestions from volunteers, but the messages of community unity and kindness stuck. “It was really community-created.” 

After getting the approval from the Needham Select Board, Youth & Family Services and their volunteers got to work on the mural. Needham DPW sanded down the fence to remove as much of the existing graffiti as possible. Local artist Diya Ghosh helped with the designs of the mural. Youth & Family Services provided the paint, sealant, brushes, and other supplies for the project. 

Volunteers signed up for each day of painting and were expected to show up to paint their section. Volunteers ended up representing a wide swath of residents - teenagers, seniors and entire families all came to the site to make their contributions. What was not expected, however, was the number of trail-goers who stopped along their walks to help paint. In total, there were somewhere between 75 and 100 volunteers. With so many people to help, the mural almost doubled in size from the initial plan.

Now, instead of seeing profanity and random graffiti, walkers and bikers along the trail now pass a colorful mural created by the Needham community. It not only helped beautify the town, but brought residents together during this turbulent time. “It got people engaged in something positive, and it just looks amazing,” said Shine. Now, there is a permanent reminder of what can happen with a little kindness and cooperation.

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