Cambridge Arts Restores "Beat The Belt" Mural Celebrating Activists’ Victory Against Planned Highway
Cambridge’s iconic “Beat the Belt” mural will be restored by Cambridge Arts beginning Monday, June 19, 2017. The 37-year-old painting by artist Bernard LaCasse celebrates activists’ defeat in 1970 of the planned “Inner Belt” highway that would have torn through the Cambridgeport neighborhood.
Located on the back wall of 730 Memorial Drive in Cambridge (on the Micro Center building near the Trader Joe’s store), the mural will be repainted to address flaking, fading and water damage.
Rika Smith McNally, Cambridge Arts’ Director of Art Conservation, has been consulting with LaCasse on plans for the repainting, including referring to the artist’s original late 1970s sketch to match the colors it had when first painted. McNally has been leading the conservation team: Regina Gaudette, Elisa Hamilton, Lena McCarthy, Beth Plakidas, Nichole Speciale and Karen Wolff in restoring the mural.
LaCasse, who lived in Cambridge when the mural was first painted and now resides in Brookline, is expected to be at the mural site on Monday morning, June 19, to approve the colors. A team of up to six painters are expected to work on the mural most days between 10 and 4 p.m. through at least June 27, depending on weather. All are welcome to stop by to watch or ask questions of the restorers.
The 75-foot-long mural tells the story of the "Inner Belt,” an eight-lane highway that would have looped around downtown Boston, including right through the neighborhood of Cambridgeport, destroying hundreds of buildings and displacing as many as 4,500 people. For two decades residents fought the plan. “We don’t want a road. We want our homes,” crowds chanted at public meetings and rallies in the early 1960s.
Residents battled the highway until winning the fight in 1970, when Gov. Francis Sargent ordered work halted on the project. Bernie LaCasse's mural, completed in 1980, depicts a crowd of people blocking a bulldozer to commemorate this moment of triumph and celebrate the power of ordinary people to make a difference.
Learn more about the state of the mural in the conservation assessment report.
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