ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Mural artists Nicole Salgar and Chuck Berrett.
By MATT DEMIRS
LYNN — You’re home, “people of the first light.”
Nicole Salgar and Chuck Berrett, or NS/CB, have set a portrait of a strong Wampanoag woman high above the rooftops at 33 Central Square to remind everyone of a timeless heritage.
For the Brooklyn-based collaborative mural and street art team, the meaning of finding a home for the Wampanoag Native American tribe in the city of Lynn came from research.
“Anytime we paint in a place we like to research the history going back as far as the earliest indigenous people.” Berrett said. “Massachusetts, in general, has a lot of history with colonization and was the first place where Europeans settled.”
The Wampanoag Indians lived in what is now Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the early 17th century. Wampanoag, which means “people of the first light,” had as many as 40,000 people in 67 villages, according to Plimoth Plantation, a museum in Plymouth.
Now there are only 4,000 to 5,000 Wampanoags living in New England.
He said it’s important to remember what was here before.
“We don’t always focus on Native Americans (in our art) but wanted to pay tribute to them especially with what is going on right now politically to empower them,” Salgar said.
The couple, who began dating three-and-a-half years ago, wanted to both create a positive message for the people of Lynn and raise the the topic of immigration, they said.
“People have forgotten that part of history and start to feel privileged that they have a right to certain things.” Berrett said. “It’s nice to remember that there was a time where we didn’t have all the technology or civilization we have now and things worked just fine.”
Perched high above the street, the pair can’t really interact with foot traffickers. But they said they couldn’t have been more satisfied with the Beyond Walls Mural Festival’s leadership and the people of the North Shore.
Like celebrities, they were stopped by shoppers who recognized them as “the artists working in downtown Lynn,” at Whole Foods Market in Swampscott this week.
“It’s nice to see it’s reaching farther than Lynn,” Salgar said.
Salgar, of Miami, and Berrett, of Salt Lake City, both began painting murals in New York. The two began painting murals together when they started dating. Although the two paint separately as well, they have done a handful of murals across the country together.
Salgar studied fashion at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, and encouraged Berrett to take painting more seriously after she arrived in the city to play music.
As the crew continues to bring the Wampanoag heritage to a now colorful arts and cultural district, they are anticipating the finished product.
“We’ll be burning the midnight oil,” they said
Matt Demirs can be reached at [email protected].