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RAW hosts three Beyond Walls programs celebrating women in Lynn

Mural by Yu-baba on Silsbee Street progresses. Her work consists of female portraits that reveal women’s energy, confidence and beauty. (Owen O'Rourke)

LYNN — There are two things that Doneeca Thurston especially loves to do: sing the praises of her native Lynn and awaken others to the life-changing work that happens at Raw Art Works in Central Square.

Doneeca Thurston (File Photo)

This year, as program coordinator for the two-week-long Beyond Walls Mural Festival celebration, she has the opportunity to do both. Tasked with creating diversity programming for the festival, she has played an active role in many of the events, including three free programs that take place at RAW headquarters next week.

“Life as a Working Female Artist” is one of seven Beyond Walls signature events. On August 14, from 6-8 p.m., some of this year’s women artists will participate in a panel discussion about what it’s like to be a working female artist today.

“The feedback from last year’s Beyond Walls Mural festival indicated there were not enough female artists. This year, there is a huge increase in the number of women artists participating,” said Thurston, a 2008 Classical High grad.

“The women on this panel are amazing. I thought, ‘What an incredible opportunity to get these artists and young girls together to create some art themselves.’” The resulting program, ‘Girl-Powered Art,’ will take place at RAW from 3-5 p.m., just before the “Life as a Working Female Artist” discussion on August 14. Young girls are invited to have fun and make art with some of the women artists. “It’s open to all young girls and young women, who can learn from and be inspired by these artists,” said Thurston.

Thurston is also excited about the RAW “Alumni and Friends” gallery opening on August 15 from 7-9 p.m. “We have so many talented artists here, let’s shine a spotlight on them. Let’s celebrate the talent at RAW and in Lynn. The exhibition will be in the RAW gallery and light refreshments will be served.”

Thurston serves as president of RAW’s Alumni Council, an active group of more than 300 creative individuals who have benefited from RAW programs through the years. “RAW has a strong alumni community. A lot of us are still in the area and doing amazing things. We’re eager to share (our art) with the rest of Lynn and everyone who shows up.

“The alumni strongly believe in giving back. An alumni dinner is held each year, and we raised $1,000 for our Pay It Forward scholarship this year; our goal was $500. The sense of community you feel at RAW from the first time you walk through the door is incredible.

“RAW empowers kids to be the artist they want to be. In Lynn, so many youths are eager for a place like RAW.”

Thurston’s day job is as a Creative Engagement Producer at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. She helps organize and coordinate at least one PEM program a month. July’s summer block party was one of the successes she helped run. More than 4,000 people attended the event, which featured bands, burgers, beer and ice cream. “The museum was open, too, and about 750 people moved from the street fair to explore inside the museum. It’s fantastic that I get to be creative in my job,” she said.

Thurston earned a Master of Arts in Public History at Northeastern University and also holds a Bachelor of Arts in History from Bucknell University through the Posse Foundation scholarship program. A former program coordinator for the Downtown Lynn Cultural District and programs assistant at Lynn Museum, she is thrilled about the positive energy in downtown Lynn these days.

“Lynn is an amazing city. I love being able to give back to Lynn, at both RAW and now Beyond Walls. The city constantly gets a bad rap. It’s undeserved. The Mural Festival and these events at RAW will help show others what a fantastic place Lynn is.”

For more information or to register for these and other programs, go to beyondwalls.org.


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