by Bill Kirk, Eagle Tribune
At about 12 feet high and 50 feet long, the brightly colored mural at the corner of Broadway and Bradford streets is an eye-catcher.
At the top right corner, the leaves of a tree are painted the colors of the flags of more than a dozen nations whose people live in the city.
Sitting at the base of the trunk of the tree, a young man reads a book.
As the mural unfolds, the faces of Lawrence come into focus: a Vietnamese nurse, a Dominican high school student, a Guatemalan grandfather and the cousin of one of the artists, whose ancestry includes Latino and European blood.
In foot-high letters across the left side of the painting, a quote from Nelson Mandela, the South African human rights activist, espouses the importance of learning: "Education is the most powerful weapon which can be used to change the world."
Lawrence High School art teacher Eric Allshouse said the quote, as well as some of the models for the mural, were chosen by Angely Cisneros, a 2019 Lawrence High graduate, who was perched on a ladder Friday afternoon under the blazing sun with a paint brush in her hand.
She deftly filled in the spaces on the cinder-block wall, bringing the features of those models to life.
"During her senior year, I had her in my mural painting class," Allshouse said. "I realized how good she was. She can paint a super-clean line."
Allshouse received help from the Essex Arts Center on Island Street and MassHire's summer jobs programs for kids, to pay for three student-artists and the supplies needed to complete the project that was started in early July and finished Friday.
The owner of the building at 234 Broadway, David Landy, was happy to loan the side of his antique and used furniture store to Allshouse for the mural.
"This brings life to Lawrence," said Landy, whose family has owned most of the block facing Broadway for three generations. "This will improve the area. It's a pretty rough neighborhood."