Christian Ang, right, of Lowell High School, shows details of a painting at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Lowell while Pharrell Peau, a recent LHS graduate, listens. The two men were two of eight LHS students working on a Greek mural outside Sophia’s Greek pantry. Ang and Peau worked on the details of the church during the last day of painting, July 27, 2023. (Cameron Morsberger/Lowell Sun)
LOWELL — Tales of Greece — ancient and contemporary, real and mythological — were brought to Lowell with a wave of Greek immigrants in the early 1900s, and although their population in Mill City has declined over the years, the The spirit of the community is kept alive. by those of Acre.
Lowell High School students are preserving the cultural heritage and character of this Greek history in the form of a mural on the side of Sophia’s Greek Pantry on Market Street. In collaboration with Project LEARN, a youth nonprofit based in Lowell, the teens are paying homage to the neighborhood’s Greek history through art. They put the finishing touches on the room Thursday morning after nearly two weeks of work.
With paint and brushes, the high school students transformed the red brick wall into a canvas, depicting classic Greek symbols: the Parthenon and Medusa, a Greek warrior charging a chariot into battle, and Greek architecture, both in Greece and nearby.
Spring graduates Christian Ang and Pharrell Peau worked together on the final details of Lowell’s Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, whose golden Byzantine dome was visible in the mural. On Thursday morning, the two said they were “refining” the illustration to make it look more 3D.
At the beginning of the mural, Peau helped draw the bougainvillea, the pink flowers that fall from the tops of the columns, while Ang – although his drawing was “canceled” due to lack of space – gave a insight into the work of his classmates.
“It’s actually been really fun,” Ang said of the process.
“Honestly, you forget you get paid when you do this,” Peau said.
Their art teacher and supervisor, Eric Allshouse, spent 15 years creating murals with Lawrence youth before coming to Lowell last fall.
During a trip to Philadelphia, Allshouse said he was inspired by “the power of public art,” which put him on the path to creating his own works with aspiring artists. The LEARN Project is one of the few local agencies connecting with students and teachers to create art in public spaces, an initiative that began in 2019.
The eight Lowell High students and recent graduates took the opportunity to draw, sketch and paint their creations themselves, Allshouse said, while making digital adjustments with Photoshop.
“A simple way to tell a story about a community, this time a Greek community, or to tell a story about anything, is visually,” Allshouse said. “A lot of people come through here, and some maybe don’t even speak English, and they can still tell us they like it and know what it’s about.”
The LEARN Project helped obtain the wall, obtaining permission from the building owner and approval from the Lowell Historic Board. The intention behind this effort was to honor the space it was in: the Greek community.
LZ Nunn, executive director of the LEARN Project, said the mural allows students to not only develop artistic skills, but also learn from Lowell’s artistic community. Ellen Casazza of Curation 250 and Bianca Mauro of BRM Productions have both worked with muralists and served as mentors to the students. The other advantage is that all students are paid for their work.
The mural, which received funding from MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative, already looks “professional and stunning,” all thanks to the kids, Nunn said. Presenting artwork that also reflects the history of the space was important to everyone involved, Nunn added.
“The Greek community has so many connections and deep roots to this part of Lowell, this part of Acre,” Nunn said. “And with the mural being so close to the Greek church, it’s a wonderful opportunity for the world to come together and really celebrate the Greek culture and experience.”
The Acre neighborhood is still home to Greek-Americans and their businesses, including Athenian Corner Restaurant, Olympos Bakery, Hellenic American Academy, and Olympia Restaurant. As of last year, Lowell is also a sister city to Kalamata, Greece.
Valerie Georgoulopoulos, owner of Sophia’s Greek Pantry, said customers are coming into the store more optimistic because of the new pop of color just outside.
His mother, Sophia, who founded the company more than 20 years ago, was born in Lowell to a Greek family. Despite the departure of Greek immigrants from the city, Georgoulopoulos said the mural and Greek businesses signal “a little comeback.”
“Watching him from the beginning has been really, really special,” Georgoulopoulos said. “Everyone here is so happy to see something like this develop. It’s really catchy.
This is just the first in a series of murals that will be done around the city, with the next one located near the UMass Lowell University Crossing, Nunn said. Another, also located in Acre, will appear later in the summer or early fall.
Arianna “Nev” Morin, a rising junior at LHS, was recommended to Allshouse as a talented artist. She used this talent to work on the first column, painting Medusa and the flowers. While talking about this experience, a small group of people stopped to admire their artwork, which made Morin feel “famous.”
“It’s really cool, honestly,” Morin said, “because it’s going to be there for a very long time.”
For rising senior Ava Rockwell-Ingram, the completion of the mural is not yet completely realized.
“It’s definitely going to be something that I’m going to surpass and it’s going to hit me that I helped get there,” Rockwell-Ingram said.