Artists draw on nature for mural at Arsenal Project


by Nikki Chase for the Boston Herald.

Ross Miller, of Cambridge works on the lighting for an outdoor mural which will be hung on the Arsenal Mall.

Ross Miller, of Cambridge works on the lighting for an outdoor mural which will be hung on the Arsenal Mall.

This season, the Arsenal Project invites shoppers to take in a little scenery during the holiday rush.

Tomorrow, the Watertown shopping center unveils a 150-foot outdoor mural by artists Ross Miller and Nate Swain, the centerpiece of their “Light Up the Holidays” event.

Made from recycled vinyl billboards from Boston Building Wraps, the mural depicts all four seasons of the natural landscape behind the mall.

“We want to soften up the hard brick and concrete of the parking lot,” said Swain, a self-taught painter trained in landscape architecture. “When you’re sur­rounded by cars and concrete, it’s nice to have colorful things around you.”

Miller, the artist behind Cambridge’s “Winter Lights” project, brings the mural to life with 2,000 lights set on a timer­ sequence. During the day, the lights represent the sparkling river and, at night, the stars in the sky.

“Most people are not aware of the incredible natural environment behind the mall,” said Miller of the Charles River. “The mural is a depiction of an ancient, almost ancestral forest that might have been in a location like this before the mall was built.”

Swain and Miller started­ in October and continue to work on the project off-site in an empty space at the mall, before installing it on the blank wall facing Arsenal Street.

In the early stages, they worked with kids from Artists for Humanity, an organization in which both Miller and Swain are involved. The young artists helped paint the river and clouds and were paid for their work. “It was a rare and fun thing,” said Miller. “They brought their skills and learned something about doing a project larger than most of us have ever done before.”

The mural will remain at the Arsenal Project throughout the year.

The “Light Up the Holidays” event is free to the public and kicks off at 6:30 p.m. with live music, street performers and complimentary hot chocolate to help stave off the cold.


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