Bringing Beauty to the Beach

Written by Kate Rogan

Photography by Derrick Zellmann

"It was nice to see this neglected part of town come back to life."

— Charlie Robinson

Charlie Robinson put pencil to concrete on the side of the Dalat building, a restaurant located across the street from Nantasket Beach in Hull. He carefully sketched the outline for a large mural that he designed, utilizing detailed 2-by-2-foot printouts as a guide. He would later bring the image to life with a paintbrush. “Kind of like paint by numbers,” says Robinson.

Days earlier, he and business partner, Brian Doneghey, took precise measurements of three walls, paying close attention to every nuance. The two artists then mocked up the mural, digitally drawing their ideas with an IPAD Pro before uploading their ideas into Photoshop.

Robinson, Doneghey and Robinson’s wife, Corey, are the owners of Cutlip, a full-service creative agency that serves greater Boston. Their mural design was part of a public art installation known as the Hull ArtWalk—a project spearheaded by Jennifer Constable, Hull’s Economic Development Committee chair. 

“We wanted to do a series of murals to try and revitalize a blighted part of town,” says Constable. Then the Paragon Boardwalk property owners connected us with project manager Amanda Hill. It was a grassroots effort that just grew and grew and the more work that was done, the more interest came our way.”

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Robinson, a 36-year-old artist with a Fine Arts degree, was thrilled to be part of the effort and was eager to dive into a creative project that focused on community building. The “placemaking” project began in February of 2019 when the town of Hull and Paragon Entertainment Ventures released an open call for local artists to paint murals for an outdoor gallery called “Walls on the Water, Hull’s Art Walk.” The goal was to revitalize a neglected pedestrian pathway that connects Nantasket Beach to Steamboat Wharf. The plan included vibrant murals, as well as other public art pieces along the path to encourage foot traffic, boost local business opportunities and harness community spirit. 

Robinson was one of 12 artists from across Boston’s South Shore worked on the project. While Robinson’s mural adorns the walls of the Dalat building, other artists created murals on square wooden pallets measuring 8 and 16 feet high that were designed to be displayed along the pathway. The project was managed by Amanda Hill and overseen by Constable.

“We had the chance to do a market feasibility study at the beginning of the project and it showed that Hull had a very high rate of art and culture,” says Constable. “That’s who we are as a community in so many ways and we knew this project would make the artistic community feel that much more supported.”

Funded by the state and private donors, the project also included a community art garden designed by public artist Carolyn Lewenberg. A series of sculptural buoy “starbursts” were created to connect the boardwalk to the new garden. Lewenberg enlisted local students, artists and other members of the community to take part.

“In total, 144 people painted buoys,” says Lewenberg. “The starburst form represents the explosion of new energy at Nantasket Beach and the buoys represent the idea of buoyancy and resilience,” Lewenberg explains. “When I went into the schools to work with the kids, I asked them to reflect on what kept them afloat. I wanted them to paint from that place.”

Robinson’s mural, which features vibrant depictions of iconic Hull sights, includes a carousel horse, birds, fish and more. The mural was completed over a span of two months, with Robinson painting a few days a week, assisted by his wife, Corey, and his friend, Brian Doneghey. Project manager Amanda Hull, and other project participants lent a hand when needed. 

As the ribbon cutting ceremony drew closer, Robinson worked daily from early morning until sunset. He recalls seeing the same onlookers every day. “They’d be walking their dogs and would stop by and say hi,” says Robinson. “You could really feel the sense of community and excitement. It was an incredibly positive experience.”

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The project was finally revealed at a community celebration in September. Artists, students and area residents mingled along the art path while music played and food was served. 

“I was so thankful for the support the project generated and the foot traffic it brought in,” says Constable, who hopes to expand the project in the future. “Part three,” as she calls it, will include a public skatepark, community area and more art. 

“It was nice to see this neglected part of town come back to life,” says Robinson, who has fond memories of traveling to Nantasket Beach as a teenager and grabbing a slice at Joseph’s pizza.

From ships and sea creatures to mermaids and a magnificent carousel horse, the Hull ArtWalk pays homage to the town’s rich history and coastal identity. It is a fantastic example of the power of public art, amplifying the town’s creative energy by bringing beauty to the beach. 

For more information, visit Hullartwalk.com.

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