Carolyn Cole, left, and Leah Warren, right, plan for the 20 foot by 4 foot photo collage of local legends that will be installed at Manning Field. (Owen O'Rourke)
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Photo collage depicting Lynn’s football history will fill a wall at Manning Field

LYNN -- When presented with the challenge of coming up with an inaugural project for the newly-formed Lynn Public Arts Commission, Leah Warren harkened back to something she'd seen at Bucknell University.

Warren, who is both a teacher and an accomplished graphic designer, remembered seeing a mural at Bucknell's new athletic complex depicting the basketball team's accomplishment while in Pittsburgh for the induction of Kevin Bettencourt into the school's Hall of Fame.

"I thought wouldn't it be nice if we had something like that here," said Warren.

She took that plan and presented it to the commission at its first pitch meeting.

"Leah came in with the idea of doing a mural at Manning Field that would depict Lynn's football history," said Carolyn Cole, head of the commission. "We had a lot of people with a lot of ideas, and we all thought 'Isn't that the perfect inaugural project?' It combines everything positive about Lynn."

Both Cole and Warren have roots that run deep in the city. Cole's father is former Ward 6 City Councilor Norman Cole, who worked for the Lynn Housing Authority; and her mother is Eileen Cole, the principal at the Brickett School. Warren (née Kalapinski) was a noted Lynn English high school athlete, and her husband is Classical Assistant Principal Chris Warren, who was the quarterback on the Bulldogs' 1990 Division 3 Super Bowl team.

Warren came up with the idea after going down to Bucknell University in Pittsburgh for Endicott head basketball coach Kevin Bettencourt's induction into the Hall of Fame.

So did the rest of the committee, as did Rich Avery, who, as part of the city's Also on board was Rich Avery, the site manager for both Manning and Fraser Fields as part of the Department of Community Development.

"In the beginning," he said, "they wanted to do both spots, Manning and Fraser. So we walked around one day poking around looking for good spots. And we came to this nice, long wall next to the concession stand at Manning.”

"Lynn is so steeped in athletic history that it'll be pretty cool to have something there," Avery said.

Cole is no stranger to the arts and theater. As a child, she was active in theater in and around Lynn, and as an adult, scored the lead role in a production of "Hairspray" in Washington, D.C. But she found she missed Lynn, and came back home to work here. She loves this project for a number of reasons.

"It'll connect people with each other on a multi-generational level," she said. "It was kind of an easy decision (to proceed with the mural). It embodies our history, our culture, our past, our future, and our families."

Right now, the plan is to stick to football, with a mural depicting the sport's history in Lynn up to and including the present. Warren has been fast at work gathering pictures of the athletes who will be depicted.

Cole said the mural will be 20 feet long and four feet wide, and consist of a weathered canvas that can, if necessary, be moved to other locations. Avery said a digital company will put the mural together once a schematic has been finalized.

"We're going to need a lot of football players," Cole said.

"Hopefully, this brings some lift to some empty spaces," she said. "There's Harry Agganis, of course, and photos of the old Manning Bowl. There are also photos of big moments (including, perhaps, Chris Warren's last-minute touchdown pass against Swampscott that cemented English's 1990 undefeated season), and hopefully a lot of players.”

"Also," she said, "hopefully it sparks something where we could do more of them that depict other aspects, such as baseball at Fraser Field, or music near the auditorium."

The idea, she said, "is to bring the past to life and take it into the future."

Avery said the project has been budgeted.

“This will be a great way to bring two great things in our city, sports and the arts, together," Avery said. "It's a good thing for the city."

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