“I love that I can make public art for the community by the community,” said Eric Allshouse, 40, local artist and teacher at Lawrence High School.
This year, Allshouse literally took his art to the streets with the Lawrence Mural Arts Program after being inspired by the 3,500 murals installed by the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. “I’d like to get to that level,” said Allshouse.
He led a group of students to create two large-scale murals in the city, one inspired by music and the other by local hero, Robert Frost.
Before becoming a teacher six years ago, Allshouse was working as a traveling artist, and ended up in Camden, N.J. in an art show where he came upon this program.
“I’ve seen murals as big as the HLD [Humanities & Leadership] building and thought ‘Wow, I want to do that!,’” said Allshouse.
With the help of Lawrence High School students Oscar Cruz, Angel Ortiz, Brianna Figueroa, Alisandra Davila, Laura Medina, Anthony Palacios, Catherine Perez, Michael Angelo White, Kassandra Huertas, volunteers Christian Rodriguez, Henry Carpio and assistant Liz Ferreira.
The students were most excited about the mural they created in the alleyway of a music lounge building at 151 Essex St. in Lawrence. The mural featured music legends, such as Romeo Santos, Aaliyah, Bob Marley, Leonard Bernstein, Lauren Hill, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Prince and Alicia Keys, and took two weeks to finish.
“We turned this space that was literally a garbage alleyway into a public space. I think it’s awesome. It’s a hangout spot and will soon have benches and flowers,” said Allshouse. Students will be able to go there and write, draw and relax.
The murals are an extension of the artistic work that Allshouse explores on his own. He is working on a personal project of creating monochromatic images of 100 famous people. Allshouse creates these on a small scale, using pen, ink and paint, prolifically drawing one a week and as many as 20 a week in the summer.
“It’s like my little vacation,” said Allshouse.
He has 40 completed so far and plans to display them in an art show in Boston once he finishes.
The group also created a Robert Frost Mural located on the corner of Amesburry and Essex Street in Lawrence.
“We were talking and one of the volunteers said, ‘A road not taken’,” said Allshouse, “And I said yes! This road was pretty decent and empty and Robert Frost lived in Lawrence, so we just went for it,” said Allshouse.
Allshouse is also a tennis coach at LHS. His mural class at HLD has created large scale canvasses that hang all around the LHS cafeteria.
This isn’t going to be the last mural Allshouse and his student artists will paint.
“I want to have the community beautified to inspire the city in positive ways,” said Allshouse.