NEW BEDFORD — Bristol Community College Art and Design instructor David Stephan Graves and recent graduates Nuno Alfama, Vannyka Sim, Duvall Skerritt and Styles Vazquez contributed their time and talents to a powerful new community-led creative endeavor in downtown New Bedford. Installed on February 6, 2021, at the vacant Keystone lot on Union Street, the vibrant mural consists of 16 large, hand-painted letters—each with a unique design and message—that form “BLACK LIVES MATTER.”

The project drew a diverse mix of New Bedford-based activists and artists, who worked with local businesses to raise approximately $3000 for supplies and secure a donated six-month lease of the installation space from MassDevelopment, with the possibility to renew. Local nonprofits, such as the YWCA of Southeastern Massachusetts, were well represented on the collaborative mural team.

Graves, a Bristol alumnus who has been teaching at the college for six years, and Material Creative Studio co-founder Meridyth Espindola Pereira learned about the initiative from a Facebook post by New Bedford resident and project leader Tanisha Ferrer and jumped at the chance to engage with the community in such a meaningful and collaborative way. The duo volunteered to serve as creative directors for the community project and immediately envisioned the project as an opportunity to showcase the talent of Bristol’s Art & Design program and help students gain valuable professional experience. Margo Saulnier, Creative Strategist for New Bedford Creative, also joined the initiative as a primary leader of the group.

“The response was immediate,” explained Graves. “We had a handful of artists on board by the end of that week. The Bristol Art & Design alumni that designed the letters, Nuno, Vannyka, Duvall and Styles, were exceptional students and are brilliant artists and designers.”

Graves and Pereira facilitated the creative and logistics-focused side of the project. Wanting the mural to be a symbol of inclusivity, the two designers also assisted community members without artistic backgrounds through a collaborative effort that translated their ideas to each finished 4-foot-tall letter.

“As anyone that has witnessed any part of this movement firsthand can attest, BLM is about love,” said Graves. “We hope this message of love and inclusion reinforces what people have been shouting for years: Black Lives Matter.”

photo credit: Tanisha Ferrer