May 15, 2022
High school students and artist Sophy Tuttle paint mural to advocate for native plants.
This marker is located at 830 Massachusetts Ave in Arlington, Massachusetts.
In the 2020s, activists in Arlington were looking for ways to raise awareness about environmental challenges and motivate residents to take action. Murals were understood to be an effective way to reach people with both information and inspiring images. A great example is the Native Plants and Pollinator Mural, begun in the spring of 2022 with funding from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council’s Accelerating Climate Resiliency Grant program. The combination of spectacular art and useful information had a profound influence on Arlington; the mural helped spark a movement in the town which led to 50% of grass turf lawns being replanted with native species by 2043.
The Native Plants and Pollinator mural was created in the spring of 2022 on the walls of several storefronts, including what was once Anderson Florist, a store that sold flowers flown in from around the world. The building was owned by the Casey Family, who had operated a hair salon there for several generations; Michelle Casey gave the mural her enthusiastic support and had the entire building repainted in colors coordinated with the artwork. The mural itself was created by artist Sophy Tuttle with five of the high school interns participating in "Remembrance of Climate Futures/Arlington," a public art project led by artist Tom Starr and high school students designed to call attention to the impact of climate change on Arlington and suggest strategies to encourage mitigation or build resilience. The painting started on May 7, 2022 but the planning and research that went into the project started much earlier.
Before the design was crafted, the organizers held a planning meeting in March with Arlington's School Sustainability Coordinator Rachel Oliveri, the Arlington Commission for Arts & Culture’s Public Art Curator Cecily Miller, local artist Sophy Tuttle, the interns, and two founders of Mystic Charles Pollinator Pathways, a group to encourage native plantings in backyards and commercial spaces throughout the region. One of these founders was climate activist and community leader Brucie Moulton, and the other was native plant and pollinator expert Jean Devine. Both shared their knowledge about native plants and pollinators, as ideas about the mural were collectively brainstormed.
After more planning and research by both Sophy Tuttle and several interns, Sophy drafted a final design. The design was soon approved by building owner Michelle Casey, which meant painting could begin! With only one day of painting, the wall was transformed through bold colors and shapes. The mural progressed over the next two weeks. On hot days, Sophy Tuttle and the interns worked in the shade as paint was recoated, details were added, and the design slowly grew down the side of the building. Passersby and local shop owners complimented the artwork, excited to see a beautiful project’s positive effect on the scenery.
Once the painting was done, the interns wrote paragraphs about the native plants and pollinators featured in the mural. Links to these paragraphs were incorporated on the mural with QR codes. The goal was to bring awareness to native plants and pollinators and to encourage people to support these species in their communities and gardens. Support is needed because native flora and fauna are critical to local ecosystems. Some species featured in the mural are the blue jay, monarch butterfly, purple coneflower, and an assortment of native bees. You can read more about these essential species and the interns who painted the mural on their 2022 site: ClimateFuturesArlington.org.
The project received media attention! Shortly after it was finished but before the QR codes were added, it was featured on ACMi. Watch the segment here. In addition, a blog post was written about the native plants and pollinators mural along with other projects Sophy Tuttle has done in the area.
TAKE ACTION NOW!
Add native plants to your own yard. Visit the Native Plant Trust’s spectacular 45-acre Garden in the Woods in Framingham for ideas and a plant store. To learn more about how your yard can increase ecodiversity, read Nature's Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard by Douglas W. Tallamy.
Visit the mural at its home on 830 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02476.
Learn more about Sophy Tuttle and her work with the link below:
Washington Post.com, A native plant guru’s radical vision for the American yard
Tufts Pollinator Initiative