Residents have something to look at as they pass by the old Edison Powerhouse building on the corner of Salem & Prince Streets. Many folks are actually going out of their way to see what once was a barren building. Thanks to artist Nathan Swain, this eyesore has been transformed into a colorful canvas of gated gardens and classy window fronts.
The 1907 building was the old Edison transformer site and is now owned by NStar for limited use. NStar approved the mural project if the artist could convince the neighborhood groups. Those meetings were a bit odd, since no one knew exactly what to expect. Still, neighbors saw the potential for visual improvement and supported the artist’s intentions. Nate is also a North End resident and joked that he would be happy to paint any neighborhood cats looking out the painted windows.
At first, the proposal was to actually paint on the building itself. Due to the potential for fading, peeling and maintenance issues, Swain switched to using canvas murals that are affixed to the building instead. This solution provides more flexibility over the years and avoided long-term scaffolding on the site to complete the paintings.
Neighbors are very pleased with the end result. They recommend seeing the paintings in the sun so you can view the depth of the “interiors.” Like real windows, the canvas shows less detail when the shadows hit the building. Since most will view the paintings from the ground, the 3-D ceilings are especially noteworthy.
The artist absorbed the cost of the project himself along with some community donations. He also agreed to enter an agreement with NStar to maintain and repair any damage on the murals. He also agreed they would be for artistic purposes only and not for commercial gain or other commercial purpose.
Nate Swain commented at the neighborhood meetings that as a North End resident, painting these murals has been an aspiration for many years. This is his first public art project, although he has 2 paintings in Artmosphere Gallery on Prince Street. He mainly works on large canvases. The windows are 7 x 10 feet, which are well within the scope of a typical large canvas size. The artist believes the paintings will last at least 20 years and noted the addition of a UV protective coating.
Note: Click on any of the pictures in this article to see larger images of the mural paintings.