November 2016

Thursday, November 17, 2016 - 2:00pm

November 17, 2016, 7-9PM

North Cambridge Senior Center 2050 Massachusetts Avenue


  • Annual Election of Officers
  • New Figures for the Davenport Street Mural
  • Neighborhood Resiliency
  • Ears to the Ground

ANNUAL ELECTION OF OFFICERS The following were elected by a unanimous vote: 

  • President: John Howard
  • Vice President: Ruth Ryals
  • Secretary: Susan Hunziker
  • Treasurer: Margaret Studier


Now that he has finished renovating the Davenport Street mural, muralist Josh Winer is thinking about adding some new figures of people to it. In his experience, figures significantly enliven murals, can recognize locally or historically significant individuals, and help discourage graffiti. A preliminary written proposal from Josh is appended below. Click here for images showing the renovation and figures in the existing mural and others around the area. After discussion, we agreed to form an organizing committee which would involve key stakeholders (neighbors, the shopping center, the city arts council) and solicit community suggestions, especially for individuals to add to the mural. Al Gowan, who administered the first section when he was with the Cambridge Arts Council, and the second Rand Estate mural with volunteer artists from Massachusetts College of Art and Design, agreed to head the committee, recruit members, and report back at the January PSNA meeting with a preliminary list of candidates for the figures and criteria for selecting them. There was a general recommendation to avoid living individuals and elected politicians.


City Councillor Craig Kelley, chair of the Mayor's Special Task Force on Neighborhood-Based Resiliency, led a group discussion seeking our input on resiliency issues relevant to Porter Square. The task force has been meeting for about seven months. They started with various Cambridge departments and have moved on to universities, large companies, and senior centers; they also want input from neighborhood groups such as PSNA. Eventually they will report back to the Mayor with lists of themes and tools. Issues raised during discussion included terrorism incidents, flooding, snow storms, tree maintenance, stump removal, climate change, and inadequate infrastructure for new development. Craig noted that nobody mentioned crime, which was important for many folks living elsewhere. The main suggestion was to improve communication both for immediate events and for longer term planning. (The City is working on immediate term communication, for example with new cell phone apps - "Haven" ( to enhance the 911 system with precise locaion information, and "Commonwealth Connect" to report a variety of infrastructure and support problems.)


Recently Eversource installed new electrical wiring along Orchard and Allen Streets to service the new "The Rand" condominium replacing Bob Slate's. In the process they severely pruned a number of mature trees, some planted many years ago by abutters. Several PSNA members are concerned by the unsightly new double poles, the larger than expected transformer on Allen Street, and the lack of communication with abutters over this activity. We are also concerned that we have now had two unpleasant surprises over electrical service to new developments, and we wonder what will happen when the St James's development restarts. Craig Kelley suggested that we invite the City Electrician (Steve Lenkauskas) to explain electric service issues in the Porter Square area at a future PSNA meeting.

  • Josh Winer's preliminary proposal: I finished the Davenport Street Mural Restoration project this fall, after almost two summers of work. We have repaired and repainted the entire mural to extend the mural's life span for another 30 years. The mural started with local architect and community activist Jeff Oberdorfer's 'Saginaw Avenue Mural' painted in 1977. Al Gowan developed the central mural 'The Rand Estate Mural' in 1990 to bring back the lost view from Orchard Street. My mural (the large block closest to Mass. Ave) was created in 2000. The mall management company financed the restoration. During the work period, I was continuously approached by neighbors expressing their gratitude for my work to preserve the mural. They consider this mural an important part of their lives, as a public amenity which enlivens the streetscape, mitigates the stress induced by the use of the loading areas, and celebrates the common history of the street. The mural has about a dozen figures spread across its 600 foot length. The figures animate the architectural wall and create a feeling of street life. They also mitigate the addition of graffiti, because they add detail to the blank areas where graffiti artists and taggers typically do their tagging. Many people asked me to include additional figures, adding a mix of people who were historically significant along with interesting local neighbors, many of whom made important contributions to the quality of life in their neighborhood. As the artist responsible for this city block, I would like to honor these requests. I would like to see about 15-20 new figures added along the length of the mural. This is the basis for asking for your help launching this project, with a working title of "The Celebrating Community Initiative Project/ New Figures for the Davenport Street MuraI". The process of adding figures will bring the community together in a way that strengthens community spirit and activism, as well as adding history and meaning to the environment. When the work is done, I think a community celebration, like a block party or put luck, would be a wonderful way of commemorating the work. In terms of scheduling the work, I will do the design work over the winter and then the site work can be done next summer. Some suggestions of people to consider for inclusion:
  • Ruth Turner (First Tenured Woman Professor at Harvard/Marine Biologist/discovered tube worms)
  • Tip and Mildred O’Neil, neighbors
  • Noa Hall, local artist on Orchard Street
  • Simon Shapiro, community and business activist
  • Jean Keldyz, neighbor and community activist
  • Karen Klinger, free-lance reporter and neighbor