Greater City Providence

More murals please!

Photo from The Hotel Providence’s Facebook Page

So everyone seems to be loving the new Shepard Fairey mural going up on Aborn Street. Photos of it are populating everyone’s wall on the Faceplace, and it is the topic of conversation at watering holes throughout the city. So, it seems the consensus here is that Providence likes itself some murals and would like to see more.

Where should we place these future murals? Here’s two places that popped into my head:

The big blank wall at the back of Trinity Rep facing LaSalle Square:
Trinity Rep Sign

Trinity has had a banner on this part of the building in the past (I walk by here every morning and can’t for the life of me recall if there is one there now). A mural here could be about Trinity Rep and maybe have a small section where a banner could be hung for specific programming throughout the year.

Either of the blank facades on the building on Snow Street that the Alley Cat is located in:

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During Pride, Alley Cat had a light projection on this facade which was cool.

Which brings up another topic on murals, what if they were advertisements?

Pepsi advertising mural in Winnepeg, Canada. Photo (cc) AdolfGalland

There’s a long history of advertising murals on buildings in cities throughout the world, especially here in the Northeast, though the practice has gone away. Is it time to bring the advertising mural back? How would we regulate them? Is there maybe a way that the advertising murals could pay a fee to go towards the arts in Providence?

So the questions for you dear readers. Would you like to see more murals go up around town? Where? What should the subject be? And would advertising be OK?

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • On a recent bus tour in New York City I was told that the painted advertisements cost about $50,000, are up for 30 days and take a crew of two men about 7 days to complete. Providence should absolutely offer this style of advertising! It could be a steady stream of income for some local artists, if tastefully done could be a wonderful addition to the many blank walls in this city, and if we could get each business who advertised to donate a portion of their revenue during those 30 days to arts organizations it could be a total win-win!

  • I’m a little conflicted to be honest. I haven’t seen the Aborn Street mural in person, but I believe it faces a surface lot. What if a developer wants to build an attractive and useful building on a lot that is adjacent to the mural building and the new building either blocks the mural from view or is attached to the exterior wall that the mural is painted on? Will this prevent good development from occurring due to opposition of those who do not want the mural to be either taken down or obscured? Kind of like how the usage of Grant’s Block as an outdoor movie theater or public space may drive opposition to it being developed as a buildable lot, but that’s a separate discussion.

    I suppose the mural could be relocated, and don’t get me wrong, I support the painting of murals. They can add a cool artistic element and beautify an area. The point is that location is key, visibility is key, and those involved in their creation should take the possibility of future building into account, especially Downcity.

  • Ugh, you do bring up a good point. There were murmurs of outrage when the Wickenden Street overpass came down, luckily it didn’t turn into a full scale “save the murals!!!” campaign or anything. When the second Westin tower was built there was outrage about removing the park that was there, which was always meant to be temporary, and people were up in arms about losing the “park” that was the GTECH site before that was built (and there was not even anything nice about that space (unless you needed a place to park on WaterFire night)).

    Is it that we are so unused to having nice things, that when we have nice things that were meant to be temporary we go a little crazy?

    These things should be fleeting. If ever there was a proposal to develop the lot on Aborn Street I would think, “nice while it lasted,” about the Fairey mural.

  • The surface lot it faces is owned by the Conrad Condo Association and is used for tenant parking. While I will never say never, my guess it will remain that way for a long time to come.

  • ignore my last comment..grabbed the wrong side of the building. Its actually better. The parking lot on the mural side is owned by Trinity Rep and provides access to the basment of the building.. The remaining lot behind AS220 is in an LLC with Buff Chase listed as a contact but is parking for the building that fronts Washington St. Can’t see that getting filled in for quite some time either.

  • I know the guy who owns the Columbia Building (alleycat), and a girl who’s often involved in mural projects. Maybe I should try to set something up.

  • I love urban murals…think they add a ton of flair and flavor to a city. But why limit it to just the business districts? Look at this story where large-scale art projects are being used as urban beautification on potential neighborhood blights:

    PS–The use of painted advertising on buildings has a long tradition. Remember Mail Pouch Tobacco?—visual-image

  • Check out

    for a video about mural painters. Its called Up There and is awesome. I would love for this to make a comeback in Providence.

  • I miss the whale mural that was painted on a building next to Rt 95 and which was demoed a few years ago as part of the I-way project. Alas…

  • @alex
    Not so much murals but camouflage.

    I quite like bare walls. they honestly acknowledge the void of urban space; their unintended facades use only texture, material, and massing to create architecture. As I discovered when i lived in Philly (“most murals in america,” or something), pimping out those walls with forgettable murals (Fairey’s is of a quality most others aren’t) just calls attention to the fact that your city has a lot more empty/parking lots where buildings should be.

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