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NewsJan 19, 2021

Needham mural brings together Art Therapy alumnae, community

Defaced fence gets makeover with help from Megan Carleton ’08 and Diya Ghosh ’09

Two women stand in front of a panel of the mural/fence.
Megan Carleton ’08 and Diya Ghosh ’09 in front of a panel of the Needham Rail Trail mural. Photos courtesy: Megan Carleton

By Georgia Sparling

Offensive graffiti spray painted along the Bay Colony Rail Trail fence in Needham has inspired community activism in the form of a new mural created with the help of Art Therapy alumnae Megan Carleton ’08 and Diya Ghosh ’09.

“All art sends messages and can be a powerful resource for identifying themes that need to be addressed,” says Carleton. “Community art can be a powerful way to address those concepts.”

Carleton, an art therapist, learned about the graffiti last fall from Needham Youth and Family Services Director Sara Shine. Shine proposed they collaborate on a mural to cover the defaced fence along the path.

“We wanted the design to convey a sense of community and reflect the diversity of those who call Needham home,” Carleton says.

Panel of mural on a fence that reads "Needham"
The Needham Rail Trail mural was designed by Megan Carleton, Sarah Shine and members of the Needham community.

Carleton and Shine created an initial design and then collaborated with members of the community to incorporate elements that were important to them. The final design features a quote from Nelson Mandela, positive phrases and bright, cheerful images that incorporate graffiti style.

When it came time to execute the design, Carleton asked Ghosh, owner of Tuk Tak Studio in Needham, to help with the project.

Following their Lesley education, the two got to know each other as board members of the New England Art Therapy Association.

Panel of mural on a fence that reads "We are all in this together."
The mural emphasizes unity and community.

Ghosh was happy to join the 75 volunteers who participated in the beautification project during a recent spate of warmer weather. Over the course of four, in Carleton’s words, “intensive, collaborative, exhausting and inspiring” days, the fence got a complete makeover.

“Everyone involved brought their creativity, joy, support, and a deep sense of community,” says Ghosh.

The volume of volunteers allowed Carleton to do more than she originally anticipated with the design.

“We had so much community participation, we ended up expanding the length of the mural to incorporate brainstormed ideas and to provide all our volunteers socially distanced painting opportunities,” Carleton says. 

Having painted murals in schools and medical offices, Carleton says she’s seen the power they have to bring positivity into a space, and she hopes the same will be true of the rail trail mural.

People paint a mural on a fence
Megan Carleton works during a socially-distanced painting session.

“In this time of divisiveness and physical distancing, we wanted a design, and an experience, where the community could come together, make their marks, and create a finished piece that inspires town pride,” she says.

While the initial work is now completed, the design is meant to be interactive, with a chalkboard wall and colorful backgrounds for taking selfies. There is also space to add more artwork.

“We hope that if people are inspired to use spray paint, that they will continue the design in a positive way,” Carleton says.