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NewsDec 20, 2021

Boston Arts Academy unveils multistory mural designed by Art and Design sophomore

Natalia Reyes says design incorporates community, diversity into 75-foot glass wall

Natalia Reyes with a view of Boston Arts Academy behind her
Natalia Reyes with a view of the mural she designed for the new Boston Arts Academy building.

By Georgia Sparling

With the unveiling of a 75-foot glass mural on the new Boston Arts Academy building, Natalia Reyes’ art has become larger than life and a permanent fixture in the city’s Fenway neighborhood.

“I just felt really accomplished when I saw it,” says Reyes. “I kept thinking, ‘Oh, this is not real.’”

A sophomore Graphic Design student in our College of Art and Design, Reyes was a high school junior at the Arts Academy when she began sketching ideas for the large glass wall that would feature prominently on the future building.

Reyes was already a founder and the president of Studio M7, the academy’s first student-run design firm, which creates visuals for projects within the school as well as the larger Boston school district. But the scope of this project was unlike anything the team had worked on before.

The Studio M7 students created designs collectively and individually with guidance from Gretta Olton, the school’s director of Design and Visual Communications.

A graphic of Natalia Reyes's design - a black and white image with representations of a city scape, an eye, a robotic hand and Boston Arts Academy with abstract patterns
Natalia Reyes's design represents the school's urban surroundings, the school community and the artist's aesthetic.

Eventually, Reyes’s design rose to the top, and Olton helped her to refine the multistory image. The glass would be both transparent and opaque, visible from the interior and exterior of the building and need to be dynamic during the day when it was illuminated by natural light and at night when it would be lit from within.

Reyes, who grew up in Dorchester, wanted the design to reflect the bustle of urban life and the diversity and community of the school, combined with the abstract forms that are part of her aesthetic.

“I wanted it to be moving because there’s a lot of life,” says Reyes, who incorporated buildings, an eye and a robotic hand.

Reyes accompanied Olton, who served as an advisor on the project, to meetings with the architectural firm.

Natalia Reyes with her high school senior project - three black and white illustrations
Natalia Reyes with her high school senior project at the Boston Arts Academy's Gordon Gallery, summer 2020.

“She had wonderful things to say. She was articulate and smart and would challenge the architects,” says Olton.

The project was a lot of work for the fledgling designer and the image went through multiple drafts before both getting the final OK from all parties.

Once finalized, Reyes and Olton examined every pixel of the project, literally. The pair printed the image to 50 percent of its 75- by 13-foot scale, taped it together in the school gym and got on their hands and knees to inspect every inch.

“If something was a pixel off, it would be one foot off at full size,” says Olton, who repeatedly reminded Reyes of the impact the finished project would have. “I kept telling her, ‘Your grandchildren are going to see it.’”

Accompanied by her mother, Reyes was finally able to view the finished design in real life a few weeks ago.

The mural in real life on the Boston Arts Academy building
Years after creating the design, Reyes finally saw it come to fruition on the new building.

“I’m seeing the vision and the design come to life, and I’m excited to see how the students will react, to know that a student made it,” she says.

The project gave her the confidence to pursue further pursue art, and ultimately, brought her to Lesley.

“I think that’s the main reason why I decided to major in graphic design because I did that,” she says. “I want to learn more. I want to become a professional.”

Watch Natalia Reyes's interview with Boston 25 News for more on the mural unveiling.