A Dorchester building has been covered with a new Black Lives Matter mural, emblazoned with the faces of 100 victims of police violence.
Unveiled Friday, the piece features dozens of laminated portraits, printed in a rainbow of colors and plastered atop the former Gallagher Insurance office. The words “Black Lives Matter” have been painted on the opposite side of the structure in bold lettering. The creation is the handiwork of Dorchester artist Jorge Morfin in partnership with the community improvement nonprofit Fields Corner Main Street.
It’s a powerful response to the ongoing movement for racial justice, inspired partly by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, FCMS executive director Jackey West Devine said in a phone interview.
“Jorge’s mission was to respond to George Floyd’s murder in a quieter way,” she said. “He wanted to create a space where people who didn’t feel comfortable protesting could still have conversations and recognize the loss of potential when Black people are murdered so young and taken from us too soon.” (Morfin was not immediately available for an interview Monday.)
The project started with a boost from Travis Lee, owner of the land parcel near the Fields Corner MBTA station. He reached an agreement with FCMS pre-pandemic, allowing the group to temporarily use the empty location for local business pop-ups. Then came COVID-19, and that plan evaporated. Eventually, TLee Development LLC will convert the lot into a 29-unit apartment building.
That’s where Morfin came in. The artist originally created a smaller version of his installation outside Ripple Cafe in Ashmont. But the plan was always to move the artwork from place to place, Devine said. One day it might turn up in other highly visible areas, she continued. Perhaps Boston Common or the Seaport.
"He wants to have this memorial move through the city,” Devine said.
Morfin began plotting a move to the current location in July. Now, three months later, the artist’s work is complete, save for a few finishing touches coming this week.
“He thought this needed to happen sooner rather than later, because of the election, the changing weather, the changing landscape of COVID," Devine said.
In the end, Devine hopes audiences walk away with a more complete picture of who these Black men and women were — and who they never got an opportunity to become.
“We see these pictures of people on the news, and sometimes they’re not the most flattering pictures," Devine said. "Jorge wanted to subvert the narrative to honor that these are full people we lost, who died tragically but had lives — that they were loved.”
The installation will be removed at the end of the year, by request from the artist.