City Seeks Artists to Create Mural about Armenian Artist from Watertown

Print More

The City of Watertown provided the following announcement:

The Watertown Public Arts & Culture Committee seeks mural artists to submit qualifications to develop a proposal and install a mural along the Watertown Cambridge Greenway under Grove Street.

The Watertown Public Arts and Culture Committee (PACC) is collaborating with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to commission a mural along the Watertown-Cambridge Greenway that commemorates the life and work of Arshile Gorky, who, notably, forged the birth of Abstract Expressionism in the United States. The mural is an extension of a larger project by a Watertown working group to memorialize Gorky’s time in Watertown, MA, and his contribution to modern art, led jointly by resident Jack Dargon and the Public Arts and Culture Committee with support from The Armenian Museum of America, Mosesian Center for the Arts, and the Historical Society of Watertown. This project is supported by generous contributions from Mount Auburn Cemetery, the Watertown Community Foundation, the Watertown Cultural Council, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Artist selection for the 100 Years of Arshile Gorky mural has two phases. In the first phase, artists and artist teams will submit materials that demonstrate their ability to complete a mural of this scope. Materials include an artist bio, artist statement, 2-5 examples of past work, and
cover letter that artist statement and bio. Applications will be reviewed by a jury consisting of the Watertown PACC, Public Arts and Culture Planner, MA DCR, and representatives from the working group. Three finalists will be selected and paid $200 each to develop mural proposals.

In the second phase of selection, mural proposals by the three finalists will be presented in a public meeting for community feedback. With community input, the jury will select one artist or artist team to complete their proposal. The selected artist(s) will be required to sign a contract with the City of Watertown. Artists will be awarded a total of $25,000, paid 50% upon receipt of required paperwork and 50% upon completion of the mural. Selected artist(s) must submit proof of General Liability Insurance naming the City of Watertown and Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation as additionally insured.

Selection criteria in phase two will focus on thematic links to the life and work of Arshile Gorky and compelling composition. The jury seeks a wide range of proposals from the finalists. Themes or genres that may be explored include, but are not limited to, abstract expressionism, surrealism, Armenian culture, resiliency in the face of extreme adversity, diversity and inclusion, immigrant experiences, history of Watertown (especially of the East End, a destination for immigrants), memory, and portraiture.

After surviving the 1915 Armenian genocide and its aftermath, Gorky arrived in Watertown in February 1920 as part of a third wave of Armenians immigrants arriving in the United States to escape persecution. He lived in the East End of Watertown with his sisters until 1925 (their houses still stand), when he moved to New York City. During his time in Watertown, Gorky worked at the Hood Rubber factory, and was fired soon after practicing his art at work. He studied art in Boston and quickly graduated from student to teacher.

Gorky’s impact on art history and his continued influence on modern and contemporary art cannot be overstated. Watertown has long been a haven for Armenian immigrants and the East End of Watertown, where Gorky lived, is proud to be the home of prominent Armenian art and cultural organizations. Learn more about Arshile Gorky through the Arshile Gorky Foundation’s biography.

A virtual information session about the call will be offered via Zoom on Monday, July 29th from 12-1 p.m. A site visit with Public Arts & Culture Planner, Liz Helfer, will be offered on Tuesday,
July 30th from 1-2 p.m. More details about both sessions and the Call for Artists are available on the city website You can also sign up to receive the PACC Arts Bulletin through the website, a monthly newsletter about the arts in Watertown. Questions may be directed to Liz Helfer at

7 thoughts on “City Seeks Artists to Create Mural about Armenian Artist from Watertown

  1. “During his time in Watertown, Gorky worked at the Hood Rubber factory, and was fired soon after practicing his art at work.”

    What exactly did Gorky do that got him fired? Please do share the details! Abstract graffiti on the factory wall? Sketching in a notebook while he should have been assembling footwear? Something else?

    BTW an internet search brings up an excellent self-portrait of the artist as a young man.

  2. I found this in an online article about Hood Rubber and the Armenian community:
    “Gorky’s artwork wound up costing him a job, according to documents. He was fired apparently for drawing on the soles of shoes and painting on the roof of the building. At the time, he was living in his dad’s home at 86 Dexter Ave., and had yet to take his place as a major 20th-century American artist.”
    How much would those shoes be worth today?

  3. Interested in learning more about Arshile Gorky? There’s a wonderful photo archive and chronology at the Arshile Gorky Foundation website:

    The chronology includes a recollection by Gorky’s younger sister, Vartoosh Mooradian, as to why Gorky was fired from Hood Rubber. “1920–21: For a short period in 1921, Gorky works at the Hood Rubber Company in Watertown alongside Satenig [his older sister]. After only two months, he is dismissed for regularly drawing on company property, including the wooden shoe frames that he is tasked with transporting.”

    If you enjoy that website, it will be worth your while to visit the National Gallery of Art webpage about a famous Gorky painting in its collection, “The Artist and His Mother”.

  4. Hello,
    Would you kindly correct an error in your article on the Arshile Gorky mural.

    The proper name of the Armenian museum in Watertown is:
    The Armenian Museum of America (NOT of Watertown).

    It would be appreciated if you could correct this error in all of your published material.

    Jack Dargon

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *