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Home is where the art is: Lynn artist discusses the meaning behind his Andrew Street mural

From the back of a pick-up truck artist Michael Aghahowa speaks to the crowd gathered in the Andrew Street Parking Lot about the meaning behind his mural that he painted on the wall of Zimman's as part of the 2019 Beyond Walls Street Art Festival. (Spenser R. Hasak)

LYNN — Lynn native Michael Aghahowa paints a bigger picture with his mural on Andrew Street.

The wall art, located behind Zimman’s Inc. in downtown, depicts nine Lynn students standing in front of what they believe their childhood homes look like, said Aghahowa. The 25-year-old Lynn Tech alumnus created the piece for Beyond Walls’ 2019 Mural Festival in collaboration with a group of his students from Gregg Neighborhood House, where he runs several art workshops.

“All of the kids on the wall are Lynn residents and we worked on the idea for this piece together at the Gregg House, where I basically grew up as a kid,” said Aghahowa. “We’d always have conversations about the developments going up in Lynn and how we don’t think they’re very inclusive to the people who actually live here … Some days a few of them came in all upset saying their parents can’t afford where they live anymore and they have to move and leave Gregg House.”

“They’re such a young age group,” he added. “I don’t think they can fully grasp it all or why it’s happening.”

Aghahowa is all for development, he said, but he wants ones that are more inclusive to people whose whole lives and family ties are rooted in Lynn. A lot of people living in the city feel that way, he said. 

About 40 people showed up to an event Friday night where Aghahowa showed off the mural and spoke about why he thought it was important for the city to have. The Lydia Pinkham Building art studio owner said the emotional stories of his students’ parents not being able to afford where they live anymore was a big part of painting the piece.

After helping him complete the mural, Aghahowa said the students had a sense of pride not only for their work, but even more so for the city they call home. The Andrew Street mural is a statement on their opinions of development in Lynn, and a celebration of the art the kids helped create, he said.

“I’ve always felt art is just as important as English or math for these students,” he said. “It’s therapeutic. Art is important for these kids to have in their schools, but it keeps getting cut from curriculum programs because of money.”

It would be unfortunate if too much displacement over raised living costs would take away from the really cool, beautiful diversity that Lynn has offered for decades, Aghahowa said. The city does a good job of depicting what the world should look like.

“I just wanted to make the most Lynn mural I could,” he said. “I’m so thankful to Beyond Walls for this opportunity they gave me. I hope next time, they bring the city even more murals that depict Lynn’s diversity and history.”

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