Worcester Muralists Paint the Town at POW! WOW! Festival 2017


Anna Shaeffer, Scarlet Staff

Worcester’s second annual POW! WOW! Festival left masterpieces all over the city in its wake. The festival, which invited local and international artists to adorn the city, featured Worcester native Eamon Gillen and traveling artist Greg Mike.

POW! WOW!, named after the Native American term for a meeting or gathering, has brought artists together for a week-long celebration of art, beauty and energy since the summer of 2016. POW! WOW! is not unique to Worcester but is a national group that travels across the country, visiting different cities for art events to create murals. A total of 55 artists contributed to Worcester’s chapter this year.

Eamon Gillen has lived in Worcester most of his life. A skater at heart, he took many odd jobs and construction gigs, collecting tattoos all the while. He apprenticed at the Worcester tattoo shop, Crown of Thorns. There, Gillen, who has many tattoos himself, was on the other end of the tattooist’s needle in his mid-twenties.

While his tattooing career was budding, he also explored mural works, which he later said was a “good way to explore separate themes and ideas from tattooing in a much larger scale, with a looser, less stressful application.”

Gillen created his POW! WOW! mural alongside Greg Mike of Georgia., Drew Merritt of California, and Canadian artist ‘Denial.’ Mike, like Gillen, is deeply entrenched in skate culture, and fuses gritty and incandescent graffiti with the intricacy and detail of market illustration and psychedelic pop art. Their styles are clear in the massive work that features a snake twisting around fruit and flowers, which is painted on the outside walls of the magnet school on Canterbury Street.

The influence of tattoo art is also apparent in the hulking piece, which has inspired both Gillen and Mike as artists. Gillen stated that the piece shows his interest in the intersection of “art, science, and nature.”

“Plus, my daughter’s name is Clementine so there are a few meanings hidden in there,” Gillen added.

Despite the gargantuan nature of the piece, Gillen was able to accomplish what he wanted.

“Creative problem solving is important in any job in any field, which you learn a lot about when working through a painting of any size or medium,” he said.

The POW! WOW! Festival could certainly be considered a celebration of creative problem solving and, perhaps, that’s just what Worcester needs to reinvigorate its long-neglected downtown center. Murals may seem to be an intimidating task to undertake, but Gillen had some words of advice: “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, you can always paint over them, unless it’s a tattoo.”