In 2018 Beyond Walls, a creative placemaking nonprofit in Lynn, Massachusetts, worked with local residents and partners to create Lynn Lights, an LED light installation under three underpasses to make the spaces safer for people walking and attract more people downtown.
Lynn is a formerly industrial city on the Atlantic coast just north of Boston, and in the early 2000s it was suffering from economic and built environment challenges. Local leaders were working to address those issues and were interested in community feedback. As part of this work, the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency (MassDevelopment) held a series of community meetings to better understand the city’s challenges and identify areas of opportunity.
In those meetings community members shared concerns about the underpasses on Market Street, Washington Street, and Central Square. These underpasses were more than just uninviting: over the years several people had been struck and killed by cars while walking there. Residents saw those underpasses as part of the reason why Lynn as a whole was struggling.
The feedback received in those community meetings inspired a group of community members to put ideas into action and came together to form Beyond Walls in 2017. One of the nonprofit’s first task would be to create a light art installation on the underpasses, as well as activate other spaces in a variety of mediums.
The first step in this project was funding it. The team focused on fundraising as well as gathering in-kind support and pro-bono work from architects, designers, and tradespeople. Joining Beyond Walls in this effort were MassDevelopment, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 103, and others. MassDevelopment offered Beyond Walls a $50,000 grant — if the organization could raise the same amount in donations within 60 days. They reached their goal in just 14 days, partly because they documented the early business community support and partly because they were able to persuade architectural firm Payette to get on board.
With funds in hand the project got under way and in 18 months Lynn Lights illuminated 16,000 square feet of underpasses with kaleidoscopic light installations. More than 530 holes were drilled to support over 600 hundred linear feet of underpass lighting. Five hundred people attended the lighting ceremony, and the installation is now a landmark of joy and pride for city residents and visitors. It has led to increased walkability, economic output, and positive perception of downtown Lynn.
Property Type: Other
Project Type/ New Use: Art – Large Scale (e.g. Sculpture; mural)
Project Purpose: Improve safety; Community engagement
Initial Cost: Over $250,000
Funding Source: Individual contributions; In kind services; Philanthropic
Organization Type: Nonprofit - Arts and Culture
Implementation Partners: Public agencies; Local government, Private sector; Trade groups
Community Type: Urban
Project Website: Lynn Lights >
Organization Website: Beyond Walls >
Press: In Lynn, Massachusetts, a Public Art and Lighting Initiative… >
Contributions By: Daniel Egusquiza