By Barbara Taormina
Award-winning children’s book author and illustrator Ed Emberley was in Malden this week to support a major new public art project. Malden Arts, a nonprofit organization of local artists, has launched ARTline, a project that will bring murals, sculptures and “bursts of art” to a string of sites throughout Malden Square and along the Northern Strand Community Trail. ARTline hopes to combine public art with green spaces and pocket parks where people can meet and gather.
Born in Malden, Emberley, 86, has written and/or illustrated scores of children’s books, including favorites such as “Drummer Hoff” and “Go Away, Big Green Monster!” He is also known for his books that have taught generations of kids how to use simple shapes and lines to draw animals, faces, ships, planes and an endless variety of other things.
Several of Emberley’s bold and simple signature drawings will be the subjects of ARTline’s first mural, “The Wonderful World of Ed Emberley.” A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for May 23 at 6 p.m. at the David R. Fitzgerald Park on Exchange Street, followed by a celebration with Emberley and his family across the street at Exchange Street Bistro.
“He has been so generous and so sweet,” said Malden Arts President Naomi Brave, adding that Emberley was pleased to let ARTline use his drawings and characters for the project. The work is being done by members of the art clubs at Malden High, Malden Catholic and Mystic Valley Regional Charter School and their teachers.
Emberley took a few minutes out of his official visit for a short walk from the center over to Florence Street to see the house that was his early childhood home. “I think he was touched and happy to make a full circle,” said Brave.
During his visit, Emberley chatted with Malden Arts members and city officials about the value of public art, a subject that has long been a topic of conversation between Brave and her husband, Clay Larsen, project manager for Bike to the Sea. “We’ve been talking for years about how cool it would be to put art along the bike trail,” said Brave. “We started thinking about other communities and their projects and began brainstorming the term ARTline about six months ago.”
And what’s emerged is an ambitious plan to marry art and infrastructure. Art would enhance the trail, which would draw more pedestrians and cyclists, who could gather at hubs or pocket parks along the route. Increased foot traffic would give local businesses a bump and possibly provide some relief to the city’s congested roads.
The Emberley mural gives Malden Arts a chance to introduce ARTline and show the impact art can have on a downtown streetscape. It will also give Malden Arts members a calling card to present to potential donors who may want to support ARTline’s phase 1 project, a Ferry Street hub that will use murals, benches, planters, bike racks and other features to makeover a key connection point on the community trail.
The project is running on local fundraising and small grant opportunities. On April 30, ARTline will begin an online campaign to raise $27,000. If the organization meets that goal by July 11, MassDevelopment will match it with a $27,000 grant. Anyone interested in donating or learning more about the Ferry Street project can visit www.patronicity.com/project/artline#!/.
Brave said Malden Arts is also planning to apply for Community Preservation Act funding to support ARTline.