Beyond Walls

Support Beyond Walls at The Blue Ox on June 14

Come celebrate and support Beyond Walls at The Blue Ox on June 14, 2017.

The Blue Ox has graciously offered Beyond Walls 10% of the restaurant’s proceeds and ALL the proceeds of a Beyond Walls signature cocktail on the night of June 14, 2017!

Come out, enjoy some great food, and feel good that you are also supporting Beyond Walls, a local community group instituting several public art projects around Lynn, Mass.

Tables are going fast–for reservations, visit:

Having a blast at Bent Water Brewing Co.

People packed Bent Water’s outdoor patio for the second-annual “Bent Water Blast Off.”


LYNN  Bent Water Brewing Co. raised more than $5,000 Saturday for Beyond Walls, a nonprofit whose mission is to brighten the downtown.

“One of the biggest things the craft beer industry is all about is paying back to the community,” said Caitlin Kreitman, Bent Water’s event manager. “We’re beering it forward by using our beer to support the community.”

The event attracted 1,100 people. While admission was free, a donation of $5-$10 was suggested with proceeds going to Beyond Walls. The work the group is doing in the downtown will boost the city’s morale, Kreitman said.

“Beautifying anything automatically picks someone up,” she said. “The fact that it’s a crowd funded, Lynn supported, Lynn grassroots organization, that’s what we love.”

Amanda Hill, associate director of Beyond Walls, said the volunteer group is completing four projects. The plans include underpass lighting in Central Square, the installation of a dozen neon lights in the downtown, a mural festival in July featuring local and international artists, and a sculpture of a General Electric Co. jet engine.

Hill said Beyond Walls’ initiatives demonstrate a great showing of community support.

“It is nice to see everyone come together to rally around a common cause,” she said.

Beyond Walls’ online crowdfunding portal,, closes tonight after a successful two-month effort. The group hopes to reach its stretch goal by raising $15,000 before 11:45 p.m.

On Saturday night, people gathered around artist Chris “Tallboy” Coulon from Beyond Walls who painted a mural on the grain storage container.

Tallboy wasn’t the only local talent.

Corinn Bacon, a Lynn English High School graduate and aspiring musician, performed with her band, Foxes. It was the band’s second time playing at the Bent Water.

“It was amazing being invited and performing at the event, especially having come from the area,” she said. “Being able to support a cause that benefits the people of your hometown was an honor.”

The second annual “Bent Water Blast Off” capped off American Craft Beer Week. The brewery presented six new beers including Sluice Juice #4, Sherry Baby II, White Rose, Concrete Kiss, X-Series No. 17, and Blast Off.

Patrons raved about White Rose, a coffee IPA named after the White Rose Coffeehouse in Central Square.

“I’ve never tried a beer with coffee in it before,” said Kate Walsh. “I really like it though and I love that it is named after my favorite coffee shop.”

Bent Water is a self-canning, self-distributing brewery with an onsite taproom featuring 13 rotating taps. It is the city’s only brewery.

Kreitman said the release of the new beers will hopefully attract business in the summer months.

“That’s why we called it the blast off event,” she said.  “It’s a nice fun event that launches everyone off into summer.”

Matt Demirs can be reached at

Beyond Walls neon art lighting on Wednesday

Lighting technician Brian Bourgeois completes wiring on one of the many neon art pieces that will be lit downtown.

LYNN — Wednesday night will be bright.

Outside the Prime Manufacturing Co. building, 545 Washington St., pieces of neon art will be lit as part of the Beyond Walls project.

Beyond Walls founder and executive director Al Wilson, speaking Tuesday with The Item, said this is an important step in the fundraising efforts.

Wednesday’s lighting will show that this is not just vision and a plan; it will show the vision is being implemented, he said.

“We are excited for this aspect of the project to be seen,” Wilson said “The vintage neon will illuminate the neighborhood at night, increase the walkability of downtown Lynn and help improve downtown for residents, businesses and visitors.”

Since March, the project has raised about $181,000 of its $255,000 goal. Reaching $50,000 on April 6 put Beyond Walls on track to receive a matching grant from Commonwealth Places, an effort between MassDevelopment and Patronicity.

Lynn police warn of latest phone scam

This leaves about $74,000. Wilson wants to see that amount raised by June 15; “Timing-wise, now’s the time (to donate),” he said.

Three pieces of neon art are already placed. It has yet to be determined where nine others will go.

The lighting on Washington Street will be attended by Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and state Sen. Thomas M. McGee. The art will be lit at 8 p.m., Wilson said.

Other elements of the Beyond Walls project include LED underpass lighting connecting Central Square and Washington Street; 10 murals reflecting the cultural makeup of Lynn; and a sculpture paying homage to the city’s industrial history.

On Saturday, Bent Water Brewery will host its second annual “Bent Water Blast Off.” It’s a free event, but a $5 donation is suggested to benefit the “totally awesome” project, their Facebook page says.

The Bent Water Blast Off will take place from 3-10 p.m. at its location, 180 Commercial St.

Visit to learn more about the project. Visit to donate.

Meals tax could set table for a Planner

We wholeheartedly endorse the Lynn City Council’s decision to approve a .0075 percent local option meal tax.

The 10-1 vote on May 9 for the tax adds 75 cents to a $100 meal, and about 19 cents to a $25 meal. It would generate an annual estimated $700,000 in new revenue for the city.

Those additional tax dollars, in our view, should be dedicated and directed to supporting a new city Planning Department. Lynn desperately needs a creative, autonomous city planner who identifies opportunities to enhance the city and who can set a vision for the city.

Success stories in Salem and Somerville and, more recently, Saugus, where Town Manager Scott Crabtree spurred the creation of a two-person planning department, point to the need for independent planning in Lynn.

Dedicating meal tax revenue to the Planning Department will ensure the individual hired to serve as planner can act independently and hire competent assistants.

To their credit, City Councilors used common sense in discussing the meal tax against the backdrop of city financial problems. Councilor and state Rep. Dan Cahill pointed out Lynn residents already pay a meal tax when they dine in communities surrounding Lynn. Buzzy Barton and Peter Capano called the meals tax a way to avoid city layoffs and ensure public safety is funded. We invite them and Ward 1 Councilor Wayne Lozzi, the only councilor to vote against the meals tax, to evaluate the merits of using money generated by the tax to pay for a Planning Department.

Lynn’s time is now. The city has the tools and opportunities to help make development a reality downtown and on the city’s waterfront. Those tools include the local, state and federal resources making up the Lynn Economic Advancement Development Team and the expertise of MassDevelopment Fellow Joe Mulligan and downtown visionary Al Wilson, whose project is Beyond Walls.

Not having a planner doesn’t simply leave the city without a vision, it also leaves Lynn shortchanged when it comes to assigning a city point person who can engage residents in discussions on the direction Lynn should be going in.

Civic engagement is important. But a planner can also help the city stay the course as it sets planning priorities and takes stock periodically to assess progress in achieving those goals.

To her credit, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy has acknowledged the need for a planner. But Kennedy has structured a job under the title of planner that is defined within the city’s existing economic development structure. That structure denies a planner the critical ingredient of  independence with a budget on par with other city departments.

We encourage Kennedy to not veto the council vote on the meals tax. She is quoted as saying a new tax is a bad idea in the wake of the voters’ March rejection of a debt exclusion to pay for new schools.

“To approve it is being tone deaf and not listening to what the voters clearly told us,” Kennedy said.

It is important, the mayor added, to show residents the city can live within its means. That is a sound and sober viewpoint and no one can fault the mayor for prudently managing the city. But we urge Kennedy to act boldly on hiring a planner. She should state in no uncertain terms that a planner can set a course for the city.

Kennedy will deserve applause if she declares her support for an autonomous planner and backs that support by dedicating the meals tax to a new Lynn Planning Department.


A city of two tales

Hoana Cortez and Robert Miller stand April 17 at a vigil for the two men shot on Exchange Street.

To paraphrase Dickens, it was the best of times and the worst of times in Lynn this week.

The worst was first. An Easter Sunday shooting in Central Square that left one dead and another hospitalized.

Then came the best. Bookended by a Monday night vigil at the shooting site and Thursday night’s gathering at Zion Baptist Church to show solidarity for Prince Belin and remember the late Leonardo Clement, four unrelated events took place simultaneously Tuesday:

Friends of the late Wendy Meninno Hayes gathered to remember a woman who defined her life with charity and friendship; the city Humans Rights Commission hosted a City Hall forum entitled, “Focus on Asian Americans;” the committee behind the successful April 6 kickoff of “Beyond Walls” met to plan the next steps for a downtown revitalization effort that envisions murals and classic neon signs lighting up the city’s center by July; while experts who make a living out of reimagining cities converged on the Lynn Museum and let their imaginations roam free in the “Visions for Lynn” discussion.

One night in Lynn.

Perhaps the most startling was the Visions discussion. Designers and academics let their minds wander on a long leash and imagined the city’s waterfront becoming a sort of futuristic Venice with canals. They conceived a pedestrian-friendly wastewater treatment plant, the Lynnway Learning Lab — a futuristic high school with rooftop gardens — and a public safety facility doubling as a community gathering place.

Visions and Beyond Walls demonstrate the imagination that is the fuel propelling a new vision for downtown.

Beyond Walls hits $50K goal at fundraiser

All of this might sound like so much idle speculation by academics and hopeful residents — until state Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash’s perspective is factored into the equation.

Commenting in the Boston Globe’s Sunday Magazine on April 16, Ash called Lynn one of those “gritty blue-collar North Shore communities that are poised to move up a notch or two or three.”

Ash’s comments merit close examination, especially when they are spotlighted against the backdrop of Beyond Walls and Visions.

Lynn could be one of the ‘top spots to live’

The former Chelsea city manager knows what it takes to revive a city. As the state’s top development chief, Ash joined Gov. Charlie Baker, U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, Mayor Judy Flanagan Kennedy, Lynn’s state delegation and city development officials in creating the LEAD (Lynn Economic Advancement Development) team in November, 2015, to bring federal, state, and local resources to bear on revitalizing Lynn.

His remarks to the Globe are proof positive he feels that commitment is ready to pay off.

By accenting all that is positive about their city, Lynn residents are drawing a map for success and they are narrowing the focus on the city’s problems. Lighting downtown and adorning it with murals and sculpture offers an opportunity to step back and ask, “OK, what needs to get fixed downtown?”

The answer may come in the form of public safety proposals, revamped zoning ideas or other innovations rivaling the ideas offered by the academics who gathered on Tuesday at the Lynn Museum.

During her life, Wendy Hayes helped provide the answer through the selfless charity she showed Lynn residents. A Saugus native with a brilliant smile who died last August, her legacy and memory lives on with friends who knew her as the co-owner with her husband, Rolly, of Rolly’s Tavern on the Square.  

Lynn’s diversity can also provide the answer. More than 10 percent of people who live in the city are of Vietnamese, Khmer and Laotian descent. They built businesses, bought homes and Tuesday’s commission meeting is a first step to giving them the chance to contribute positive ideas.

The great news about positive ideas is that they spur imaginations and generate additional ideas. The energy that filled downtown and the city this week is proof that only imagination defines the realm of possibility for Lynn.

Beyond Walls hits $50K goal at fundraiser

Al Wilson, founder and executive director of Beyond Walls, stands with photos of the proposals.


LYNN — It appears the neon lights will be shining brightly in Central Square.

At a jam-packed, lively fundraising party Thursday night at Lynn Museum attended by an energetic, diverse crowd of more than 150 Lynners, Al Wilson, the “Beyond Walls” project’s founder and executive director, announced that $50,000 in donations had been reached.

“That means we will receive a matching $50,000 grant from MassDevelopment’s Commonwealth Places program,” said Wilson to loud cheers.

“This is an incredible outpouring of community support and investment in the future of downtown Lynn,” said Wilson. “While our campaign goal has been reached, we still need to raise more funding to support our stretch goal; and all donations over our goal will go directly to Beyond Walls.”

“Beyond Walls” raised more than $38,000 through the event, bringing the total funds raised to $56,000.

Partygoers enjoyed beer, including the special Beyond Walls Wheat, by Lynn-based Bent Water Brewing, and adult beverages from Short Path Distillery of Everett. Several area restaurants including The Blue Ox, Eastern Harvest Foods/Lynn Meatland, Old Tyme Italian Cuisine, Brother’s Deli and Tacos Lupita provided food. DJ extraordinaire Seth Albaum of upsidemedia provided music for dancing.

Beyond Walls bringing electricity downtown

The fundraising campaign ends on May 22. But not before another attempt to raise the next goal of $80,000, which will leave them at $130,000 raised through Commonwealth Places, said Wilson. If an additional $30,000 is donated, it will expand the project to include the lighting of the full Washington Street underpasses. The project also received licensing from the MBTA to light the underpasses on Market Street.

A Bentwater Blastoff at Bent Water Brewing Company will feature lively bands, food trucks, a beer tent and live installations of street art. Wilson is asking attendees to make a donation on the day of the event.

“If we can continue to bring in more funds, we can continue to light areas of the city that right now are shrouded in darkness,” Wilson said.

“Beyond Walls” will provide multi-colored LED lights under the railroad tracks, vibrant vintage neon art and murals that will cover sides of buildings.

To donate, go to

Beyond Walls bringing electricity downtown

A crowd attends the “Beyond Walls” fundraiser at the Lynn Museum.


LYNN — It was a party Thursday night at the Lynn Museum, with a colorful kickoff to fundraising efforts for downtown art project “Beyond Walls.”

“All aspects of the project are advancing,” said Al Wilson, founder and executive director of Beyond Walls.

The project will use funds raised from the campaign to install lighting in train underpasses and 12 vintage neon artworks in the city’s business district, as well as a sculpture that pays homage to Lynn’s industrial roots and 10 murals in the heart of Lynn’s Transformative Development Initiative District.

Wilson said they’re looking to raise $50-80,000 of the $255,000 minimum total needed for the project.

If the campaign reaches its crowdfunding goal of $50,000 by May 22 at midnight, the project will win a matching grant with funds from MassDevelopment’s Commonwealth Places program.

Lynn girls are strong, smart, and bold

Wilson said his inspiration for the project came from the Wynwood Art District of Miami, Fla., a warehousing area that was transformed through the presence of art. It was a success story that made him think more about the possibilities in Lynn.

“I think it will the give the area a real spark,” said state Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn), who called the project an opportunity to take the arts and culture scene in Lynn up a notch.

“I love it. If I work late I get to walk that way,” said Wendolyn Gonzalez, an employee of Lynn Community Health Center.  

There are plans for future fundraising efforts at the Bent Water Brewing Company May 20 from 3-10 p.m. Wilson said another event will likely take place at the Blue Ox Restaurant sometime in May.

MassDevelopment and Lynn’s Neighborhood Development Associates announced the campaign through the civic crowdfunding platform Patronicity and the Commonwealth Places initiative.

Interested parties can learn more at or

Beyond Walls kickoff party: April 6 at Lynn Museum

Come learn about, see, and celebrate Beyond Walls’ placemaking vision for Downtown Lynn. We will be kicking off our fundraising campaign for a multi-faceted installation of public art and lighting. There will be great music, food, and drink.

WHERE:     Lynn Museum, 590 Washington St., Lynn, MA 01901

WHEN:       Thursday, April 6, 2017 from 6-10 p.m. (Video premiere at 7:30 p.m.)

There is no event cover or admission cost; however, tax deductible donations to Beyond Walls are welcomed, suggested, and appreciated. Checks can be made payable to Neighborhood Development Associates, Inc. (NDA, 10 Church Street, Lynn, MA 01902), in the memo line, please write “Beyond Walls.”

You can also donate through:

Beyond Walls is a group of Lynn residents, business owners, and public art/placemaking enthusiasts using grassroots efforts to create a sense of place and safety in the heart of downtown Lynn. Our aim is to create a culture-rich destination where people will spend time, connect, explore, and enjoy.



Arbor Home and Garden, Barton & Guestier, Bent Water Brewing Company, The Blue Ox, Brothers Deli, Eastern Harvest Catering, John’s Roast Beef & Seafood, Los Chamos Venezuelan Cuisine, Lynn Museum, Lynnway Liquors, Old Tyme Italian Cuisine, Short Path Distillery, Tacos Lupita, and White Rose Coffeehouse.


A bright future for Central Square

The proposed lighted Central Square underpass.


LYNN — The future of the downtown may soon get brighter. A lot brighter, thanks to multi-colored LED lights under the railroad tracks, vibrant vintage neon art and murals that will cover entire windowless sides of buildings.

“Beyond Walls” is the name of a project adopted by a volunteer group of Lynn residents, business owners and public art enthusiasts working together to reinvigorate the city’s downtown. U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, city leaders and Lynn’s State House delegation support the project.

MassDevelopment and Lynn’s Neighborhood Development Associates will announce today a new campaign through the civic crowdfunding platform Patronicity and the Commonwealth Places initiative. Beyond Walls will use funds raised from the campaign to install lighting in train underpasses and 12 neon artworks in the city’s business district, a sculpture that pays homage to Lynn’s industrial roots and 10 murals in the heart of Lynn’s Transformative Development Initiative District.

If the campaign reaches its crowdfunding goal of $50,000 by May 22 at midnight, the project will win a matching grant with funds from MassDevelopment’s Commonwealth Places program.

“This campaign to change the public perception of Lynn through colorful lighting, murals and public art will illuminate the city’s rich cultural history and spur new business and economic activities,” said MassDevelopment President and CEO Marty Jones.

Courtesy photo

Proposed neon artwork near Capitol Diner.

“Investing in this revitalization of Lynn’s Central Square is really the first step in bringing the city back to a position as a leader,” said Al Wilson, founder and executive director of Beyond Walls.

Wilson and Amanda Hill of RAW Art Works, associate director of the “Placemaking” group, said the mission is twofold: to use culture and art to improve the quality of life for the benefit of those who work or live in the city; and to have millennials view Lynn as a viable alternative to living in South Boston, Allston, Cambridge or other traditionally attractive neighborhoods for young professionals.

“Placemaking” is a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces. It capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration and potential, with the intention of creating public spaces that cater to and attract people.

“The goal is to increase the walkability of downtown Lynn,” said Wilson. “Placemaking uses arts and culture to put a place on the map. Right now, three underpasses (Central Square, Washington Street, Market Street) in downtown Lynn are not lit, and with darkness comes a fear of danger. The 189 bays under the Central Square underpass would be illuminated by LED lights.”

“This brings the community together. This project will make Lynn a destination,” added Hill.

A local benefactor has donated 12 neon artworks. Street artists will be selected to create 10 murals and the GE I-A, the first jet engine manufactured in Lynn, has been donated to the project and will likely be displayed in front of the viaducts on Mount Vernon Street, across from the LynnArts building.

Some of the world’s top mural artists, including Shepard Fairey, who created the Barack Obama “Hope Poster,” have expressed interest in using Lynn’s architecturally-exciting buildings as blank canvases, said Wilson. Fairey has his eye on 545 Washington St., which he saw during a visit to Lynn two years ago.

Wilson said he was inspired by Wynwood Walls in greater Miami that was once a run-down, neglected industrial section of the city and is now an arts and cultural mecca. “It is filled with cool cafes, restaurants and market-rate housing for millennials and empty-nesters,” he said.

Boston-based Payette architects sent its senior managers to tour the city, and, Wilson said, “They were blown away. They saw beauty in the architecture and tall buildings.” He called Payette’s Parke MacDowell an unsung hero to “Beyond Walls.” Payette and Cambridge-based lighting design firm LAM Partners have offered their services at no charge.

Wilson and Hill praised the enthusiasm and work of Charles Gaeta, the Neighborhood Development Associates executive director, who has been a receptive, supportive, mentoring partner.

“This will help change the perception of Lynn,” said Wilson. “I look at Lynn and it’s half-a-cup of coffee away from Boston, but it’s not on (millennials’) radar … yet.”

Saugus reservation on display in Melrose

The group, registered as a 501(c) 3 nonprofit, has 60 days to raise $50,000 in order to secure a match from the state agency MassDevelopment. The total cost of the project will be approximately $255,000, and Wilson is confident that amount will be reached. “For now, the focus is in raising the $50,000 in 60 days so we can get the state match,” he said. “I’m a believer in the Bernie (Sanders) method, where everyone gives $20, $30, or what they can … and it’s tax deductible.”

If an additional $30,000 can be raised above the $50,000 goal, the project will be expanded to include the installation of three more murals, five more vintage neon artworks and the potential lighting of the Washington Street underpass.

Installations would occur in June and July.

Learn more and donate at

A “Beyond Walls” fundraising party will be held at Lynn Museum, 590 Washington St., Lynn, the evening of April 6, 6-10 p.m. Lynn-based Bent Water Brewing and Short Path Distillery of Everett will provide adult beverages, and several area restaurants (The Blue Ox, Eastern Harvest Foods/Lynn Meatland, Old Tyme Italian Cuisine, Brother’s Deli, Tacos Lupita) will provide food. There will be music and celebrity bartenders. A video of the project will be shown at 8 p.m.

Al Wilson, founder and executive director of “Beyond Walls,” said there is no admission charge to attend the party, but a tax-deductible donation of $20 or more is suggested. One hundred percent of donations will go toward project costs.

Bill Brotherton is the Item’s Features editor. He can be reached at