Black Madonna finds a space downtown

Artists Julia Roth or “Julz,” left, and Cedric “Vise1” Douglas have made a lot of progress on their mural on Munroe Street in downtown Lynn.


LYNN — One of Cedric Douglas’ first attempts at public art ended with an arrest after his efforts to beautify the neighborhood basketball court backfired.

More than 20 years later, the tables have turned for Douglas whose work now appears in Boston, legally, of course.

Douglas or “Vise1” and his painting partner Julia Roth or “Julz,” are erecting a Black Madonna on the courtyard wall at 114-120 Munroe St., as part of the 10-day mural festival transforming the downtown through public art.

Douglas, a full-time artist from Boston who works to activate spaces through public art, has seen just that unfolding daily at their mural site.

“This has completely changed the whole area,” he said.

On Tuesday, members of Wreck Shop Movement, an artistic collective movement based in Lynn, set up at the corner of Munroe Street and Washington for a cypher, including locals who understand the impact street art, mixed with hip hop, has for a community.

A cypher is when people get together and take turns freestyle rapping.

“It’s like telling stories around a campfire but each MC tells his story. It ignites fire,” said Justice Born, founder of Wreck Shop Movement. “That magnetism draws people in.”

The group rapped on serious topics they felt deeply about, like culture and gentrification in their city, Born said.

Douglas spoke on the way his space has energized the community, adding that people not only stop, but hang out and watch the art come to life.

Douglas said he doesn’t like when people just watch him paint because it’s more about connecting with the people who are here.

Roth, who has been an artist for more than 20 years with five of those years doing large scale work, agreed.

“It’s more than just putting murals on a wall,” she said. “It’s part of it, but not all of it.”

One resident, Douglas said, has come every day and it has inspired the visitor to begin working on his own art.

His portrait, which he calls “The Black Madonna,” with its Afrofuturism style signifies something spiritual.

“It’s spiritual, but you don’t have to be religious to believe it,” he said. “Just her presence is spiritual.”

The 40-year-old muralist said people have mentioned that she’s not only beautiful, but that it’s a “beautiful, black, powerful, and strong woman.”

She now watches over downtown Lynn, filling a place with color and an inspiring message.

“These walls are black brick and they are big, but look what you can do with putting some paint on it and designs that connect to the community,” he said.

That’s what led him to start the UP Truck, a retired NStar utility vehicle that travels to neighborhoods and brings people on board to make art.

Born, who has planned the Bridgin’ Gaps festival next month in Salem to celebrate the arts, said he enjoyed seeing the reaction from the community.

“It’s called Beyond Walls for a reason,” he added. “What we came to do is just that.”

Matt Demirs can be reached at

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