BEVERLY — As you walk along Cabot Street, your eyes can’t help but travel up to the two individuals suspended on cranes who are eagerly brushing paint onto the brick walls of The Cabot.
The two artists, Helen Bur of London and Alex Senna of Brazil, were hoisted up more than three stories as they worked on the larger-than-life murals they are painting on the exterior walls of 286 Cabot St. They're scheduled to complete the artwork, which stretches nearly 40 feet high, by Saturday.
The two were selected from more than 70 mural artists for this public art project in downtown Beverly.
“We wanted to amplify the Beverly Arts District to the forefront of the downtown,” said Cal Inguanti, associate director of development at The Cabot. “We hope these installations spark more public art in Beverly and beyond."
The project is being funded through a grant from the Essex County Community Foundation, plus individual donations. The Cabot partnered on the project with Beyond Walls, a nonprofit in Lynn. The idea is to bring the historic theater, which turns 100 next year, into the 21st century.
Beverly residents Abby Finch and David Petillo were among those walking by the theater who stopped to gaze up at Bur’s colorful design.
“Everything about this space is special,” said Finch, who has lived down the street from The Cabot for the last 11 years. “I love what they’re doing. It’s nice to see the progression of it happen.”
Petillo reminisced about some of the national acts that have played there, and recalled the first show they saw there: Bob Marley and the Wailers.
Projects like this mural installation allow cities, businesses and residents to come together and support the arts, Inguanti says.
“We want to lift the community up,” he added, saying the project is testament to the broad support of the arts across the North Shore. The two smaller murals along the ground level of the building, which depict the theater’s history hosting the longest running magic show in the country, will stay intact.
Under the shade of an umbrella pitched in her crane, Bur, 28, picked up an 8-inch brush to add finishing details to the side of a man’s face. On the four-story brick wall facing Judson Street, she operates the crane by herself and moves it backward every so often to get a better look at the progress.
“Her artistic style is almost like a painting,” Iguanti said, speaking to the choice of colors and people. It contrasts sharply with the stylized black-and-white piece from Senna, which highlights the theme of “dreamers.”
Bur has completed large-scale murals around the world. "It's always more exciting to work in other countries," she added.
It’s been particularly difficult painting on brick, she said, but she got help sketching out her design from a local artist.
She used the theater and the community it serves as a source of inspiration. So far, her mural is nearly a quarter of the way complete and will soon show of a group of people raising up another one. For her, the message is simple.
“Buildings like these can bring people together, bring people up,” Bur said of the power of theater. “When you bring people together, you rise up, too.”
Staff writer Alyse Diamantides can be reached at 978-338-2660 or email@example.com.