Murals on the walls of the handball courts spark a struggle between sport and art | News

LAWRENCE – Boston Red Sox player David Ortiz disappeared from Fenway Park this month, lost in retirement.

Now he could disappear from Costello Park as well, if Acting Director of Public Works Lance Hamel sends city crews with buckets of beige paint to cover an oversized red, white and blue mural of Big Grandpa that high school artists have painted on the wall of a handball. yard in the park two years ago.

A green-and-white portrait of former Boston Celtic forward Paul Pierce that students painted on a second handball wall a few yards from Ortiz may also be repainted, as the city responds to demands to return the field to its use foreseen.

Local handball players, supported by a state handball association, are pushing for the paint job. The defenders of art, supported by the neighbors of the park, oppose it, creating the last conflict in this famous controversial city: sport against art.

“I told them, ‘Please don’t have murals. It will affect our vision while playing, ”said Carlos Plaza, a handball player since the age of 10, describing how portraits interfere with concentration and reduce the visibility of balls. “It’s not about David Ortiz. They could (paint) Ortiz and Pierce. But not on the walls. We all love David Ortiz, but it’s not great when we play, because of the colors.”

He said the two portraits, along with what he said was the poor condition of the walls and courts, prevent the park from hosting handball tournaments.

“Obviously, we don’t want (the paint job) to happen,” said John Budzyna, executive director of the Essex Art Center on Canal Street, which co-sponsored the murals with the Valley Works Career Center. “The icons are pretty obvious to our community, especially since David Ortiz has just retired. (Handball players) have been using the courts since we painted them many years ago, so I don’t understand what the concerns are.

Mayor Rivera, who could ultimately decide the fate of the murals, did not respond to messages asking for his position on the matter. But in an October 17 email to the Worcester-based New England Handballers Association, he said he was okay with the murals going.

City recreation director Nelson Ortiz said he had not received any complaints about them.

“I would love to see them stay,” Ortiz said. “No one knocked on my door saying, ‘Let’s start a tournament. Let’s make a league.

He offers a compromise: leave the portraits on the two walls and restore the handball fields on the back of the two walls.

The fight for the future of handball at Costello Park is also raging on the Twitter account of city councilor Marc Laplante, where he posted the question in an attempt to “keep the conversation going”. Laplante represents District F, which includes the courts.

Big Papi and Pierce won a landslide victory: 22 people voted to keep the murals. Two voted to repaint them.

The two murals are one of a dozen portraits painted on blank walls around Lawrence with sponsorship from the Career and Arts Centers and under the direction of Lawrence High School art teacher Eric Allshouse. The students also painted portraits of several famous musicians elsewhere in the city, including John Lennon, Michael Jackson, Lauryn Hill and Leonard Bernstein in an alleyway on Essex Street; the poet Robert Frost on a building a few blocks from Essex Street; The tall Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates on the back wall of the El Borinquen bakery, also on Essex Street; and New York Yankee Babe Ruth (formerly of the Red Sox), whose image with portraits of local baseball players covers a 200-foot-long wall in Howard Park.

“The goal of the mural program was to reduce burning and graffiti in the city,” Allshouse said. (The walls of the handball) were continuously stained with graffiti. They will repaint them and it will be graffiti on the walls again.

Nancy Ortiz, a leader of the New England Handballers Association, offers to buy the paint and repaint it herself. She suggested the city organize a graffiti task force to repaint the walls whenever graffiti artists hit.

“How the hell did they allow Allshouse and his students to put up murals?” ” she asked. “It’s good, but they have no place on the walls of handball. They are not canvases.