For the next week or so, you’ll find Alex Hayes ’16 surrounded by that which he loves – art and the Worcester community.
“Art is a part of my life,” he says, peering up at a three-story brick wall at Elm Park Community School that artist Kristin Farr is transforming for POW! WOW! Worcester. The mural festival, in its second year in the city, attracts artists from across the globe who turn dozens of ordinary walls into extraordinary art with a spray-paint can or swipes of a brush.
Hayes, who volunteered at last year’s event, is now working in artist management. Besides helping with organization, he’s assisting Farr with painting a design inspired by Pennsylvania Dutch hex signs. Hayes believes this year’s focus on school walls – 11 artists are working at the Elm Park building alone – will further connect the community he chose to stay in after graduation.
“I wanted to be in a city that was changing, and I wanted to be a part of the change,” he says.
While a student, Hayes majored in theater arts and geography, studying urban geography and, through geographic information system (GIS) mapping, researching graffiti’s impact on communities and policies. He earned a Peter J. Condakes Summer Research Fellowship Award from the Geography Department his sophomore year, spent a lot of time seeking street art in hidden places, and presented his research, "Painted Walls as Policy," at the Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting in Chicago in 2015 and San Francisco in 2016, as well as during Academic Spree Day also in 2016.
Mentioning a boy who has visited the Elm Park school several times to check the progress, Hayes sees the POW! WOW! murals as a way to inspire those who wouldn’t normally seek out artwork.
“It’s a way to connect, to bring art out of the gallery,” he says.