Watertown Seeks Mural Artists for Public Art Commission about Arshile Gorky

July 9, 2024

Website Watertown Public Arts & Culture

The Watertown Public Arts & Culture Committee seeks mural artists to submit qualifications to
develop a proposal and install a mural along the Watertown Cambridge Greenway under Grove
Street.
The Watertown Public Arts and Culture Committee (PACC) is collaborating with the
Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to commission a mural along
the Watertown-Cambridge Greenway that commemorates the life and work of Arshile Gorky,
who, notably, forged the birth of Abstract Expressionism in the United States. The mural is an
extension of a larger project by a Watertown working group to memorialize Gorky’s time in
Watertown, MA, and his contribution to modern art, led jointly by resident Jack Dargon and the
Public Arts and Culture Committee with support from The Armenian Museum of Watertown,
Mosesian Center for the Arts, and the Historical Society of Watertown. This project is supported
by generous contributions from Mount Auburn Cemetery, the Watertown Community
Foundation, the Watertown Cultural Council, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
Artist selection for the 100 Years of Arshile Gorky mural has two phases. In the first phase,
artists and artist teams will submit materials that demonstrate their ability to complete a mural of
this scope. Materials include an artist bio, artist statement, 2-5 examples of past work, and a
cover letter that artist statement and bio. Applications will be reviewed by a jury consisting of
the Watertown PACC, Public Arts and Culture Planner, MA DCR, and representatives from the
working group. Three finalists will be selected and paid $200 each to develop mural proposals.
In the second phase of selection, mural proposals by the three finalists will be presented in a
public meeting for community feedback. With community input, the jury will select one artist or
artist team to complete their proposal. The selected artist(s) will be required to sign a contract
with the City of Watertown. Artists will be awarded a total of $25,000, paid 50% upon receipt of
required paperwork and 50% upon completion of the mural. Selected artist(s) must submit proof
of General Liability Insurance naming the City of Watertown and Massachusetts Department of
Conservation and Recreation as additionally insured.
Selection criteria in phase two will focus on thematic links to the life and work of Arshile Gorky
and compelling composition. The jury seeks a wide range of proposals from the finalists. Themes
or genres that may be explored include, but are not limited to, abstract expressionism, surrealism,
Armenian culture, resiliency in the face of extreme adversity, diversity and inclusion, immigrant
experiences, history of Watertown (especially of the East End, a destination for immigrants),
memory, and portraiture.
After surviving the 1915 Armenian genocide and its aftermath, Gorky arrived in Watertown in
February 1920 as part of a third wave of Armenians immigrants arriving in the United States to
escape persecution. He lived in the East End of Watertown with his sisters until 1925 (their
houses still stand), when he moved to New York City. During his time in Watertown, Gorky

worked at the Hood Rubber factory, and was fired soon after practicing his art at work. He
studied art in Boston and quickly graduated from student to teacher.
Gorky’s impact on art history and his continued influence on modern and contemporary art
cannot be overstated. Watertown has long been a haven for Armenian immigrants and the East
End of Watertown, where Gorky lived, is proud to be the home of prominent Armenian art and
cultural organizations. Learn more about Arshile Gorky through the Arshile Gorky Foundation’s
biography.
A virtual information session about the call will be offered via Zoom on Monday, July 29 th from
12-1pm. A site visit with Public Arts & Culture Planner, Liz Helfer, will be offered on Tuesday,
July 30 th from 1-2pm. More details about both sessions and the Call for Artists are available on
the city website www.watertown-ma.gov/688/Public-Arts-Culture. You can also sign up to
receive the PACC Arts Bulletin through the website, a monthly newsletter about the arts in
Watertown. Questions may be directed to Liz Helfer at [email protected].

To apply for this job email your details to ehelfer@watertown-ma.gov