A Brief History

Beyond Walls was born as an entirely volunteer-driven, grassroots initiative in 2016 when Founder & Executive Director Al Wilson began planning four inaugural projects in response to community input outlined in a third party Downtown Action Strategy calling for increased public art and greater walkability. Drawing inspiration from projects in Brooklyn, NY; Philadelphia, PA; and Kings Cross, London, Wilson saw Lynn's rich history, architecture of scale, and burgeoning arts and cultural district as the perfect landscape for several placemaking projects.

Lynn Housing and Neighborhood Development/Neighborhood Development Associates, Inc. (LHAND/NDA) in Lynn, initially served as our fiscal agent. Their strong partnership enabled us to transition from a volunteer organization to a formal 501c3 organization in 2019.

Over the last 2 years, Beyond Walls has looked to address community feedback calling for more art and lighting in Downtown Lynn. To this end, BWI has:

  • hosted two Mural Festivals that produced 46 building sized murals featuring acclaimed local, regional, national, and international artists;

  • installed 600 linear feet of interactive and permanent LED Lighting to underpasses (Central Square, Washington Street and Market Street) that cut through the heart of the City;

  • added 11 pieces of light-emitting vintage neon artworks and

  • conserved a 1942 jet engine (to be installed at Lynn City Hall) as a testament to Lynn's industrial roots.

We continue to work with a variety of community partners on numerous projects designed to bring new arts- and creativity-based economic development and community building opportunities for those who live in Lynn. We cannot do this work alone, and are proud to report that we have successfully raised .85 dollars of in-kind support for every dollar raised, an indicator of the strong community support for this work and the strength of our partnerships.

The success of our work and partnerships has not gone unnoticed. Beyond Walls has received the MassInc. Gateway Cities “Innovation” Award; the HubWeek Art Award for most “Impactful Public Art,” and the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence. Founder Al Wilson has been asked to speak at conferences relevant to creative placemaking and grassroots initiatives in New Orleans, St. Louis; Jackson, Mississippi and, most recently Atlanta, Georgia.

Photos by Lynn Happens