Athletics is a focus of artist Maria Molteni’s work. That’s why she was paired with Boston Centers for Youth & Families’ Perkins Center, which offers athletic programs, when she became an artist-in-residence through the City of Boston. At the Perkins Center she spent 11 months working with youth and teens from the Dorchester neighborhood, hosting after-school workshops on art, athletics, public space, and social justice.
One of the things Molteni asked students to do is draw their own dream basketball courts. She incorporated their shapes, colors, and marks into a design for a 20,000-square-foot mural to cover the public basketball court next door in Harambee Park. Artist-led and community-directed, the mural is called Hard in the Paint.
It took two weeks for a team of adult artist colleagues, teenage girls hired from the Perkins center, and daily drop-in participants from the community to paint the mural. Suggestions from passersby, drawn on chalkboards attached to the fence surrounding the court, were also added improvisationally. A team of local artists and teachers helped Molteni with final designs, painting, and open community paint days.
Between her solo work and her collaboration in the collective New Craft Artists in Action, Maria Molteni has worked on radical, community-engaged mural makeovers of five basketball courts in Massachusetts, the birthplace of basketball. “Through our multifaceted projects, we want to invite more creative and inclusive voices and vibes to spaces that have been historically male-dominated and co-opted by corporate interests,” says Molteni. “We want to create spaces with and for communities in an era when many associate new urban public artwork with gentrification.”