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‘When do adults ever blow bubbles?’

Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

When artist Silvia López Chavez finishes painting a mural, she treats herself to a massage. She takes a moment to relieve the muscle aches acquired after weeks of saturating previously nondescript walls with vibrant illustrations.

It’s physical work, and a logistical challenge, to translate a design drawn at a miniature scale on paper to its rightful place on, say, a 500-foot wall. It’s work López Chavez loves, though, and it’s work that brings her joy.

Photos by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University
New addition for '999 Cranes'

Now she’s bringing that joy to Northeastern to expand the size and scope of a mural she created on the Boston campus in spring 2018.

López Chavez is extending her mural on the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority wall outside Ruggles Station to make one of the largest murals by square-foot in Boston, says Thomas Vannatter, who oversees public art at Northeastern.

The new portion, which swirls and dives along a formerly gray entrance to Ruggles Station, is designed to remind busy commuters to pause for a moment and enjoy life, López Chavez says. The piece is dotted with illustrations of paper airplanes, a bicycle, and a train—a nod to the transportation hub on the other side of the wall, she says—and is anchored by an oversized portrait of a woman blowing bubbles, her head tilted back and her eyes closed in contentment.

The new mural is anchored by an oversized portrait of a woman blowing bubbles, her head tilted back and her eyes closed in contentment. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

“It’s a reminder of the simple things in life,” López Chavez says. “When do adults ever blow bubbles? When do we do this act of nothingness? Blowing bubbles doesn’t serve any purpose except to bring joy.”

Her mural is the latest piece in President Joseph E. Aoun’s Public Art Initiative, which provides a platform for artists to test their creative limits by creating artwork in public spaces on campus.

The original section of López Chavez’s mural is nestled across from Ryder Hall on the Boston campus. López Chavez considers it a gift primarily for students. Its focal point, a pair of cupped hands holding a paper crane, is her offering of good fortune to the students who pass by it, she says.

Photos by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

The new section is much more visible to the thousands of commuters who pass through Ruggles Station each day, including young professionals and older adults who have long since graduated from college and established their careers. So López Chavez wanted to send a new message, she says.

“It’s the idea that when we become adults, we forget to take a moment to ‘stop and smell the roses,’ so to speak,” she says.

Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

As she did with the original section of the mural, López Chavez is working with other local women artists to complete the new section. Amanda Hill, Sophy Tuttle, and Lena McCarthy are helping López Chavez  finish the new painting, as is her husband Dominic Chavez, a photographer.

“It’s been great to be able to provide jobs for other local, women artists,” López Chavez says. “My hope is that one opportunity leads to another.”

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