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Common Wealth Murals to Host “Paint the Town”Fundraiser June 27; Kicking Off Mural Season 2024

“Paint the Town” fundraiser at Loophole Brewing to feature food, drinks, live music,

painting, and the first Nelson Stevens Award

Springfield—Common Wealth Murals will host its first major fundraiser, “Paint the

Town,” kicking off its 2024 mural season on Thursday, June 27 at Loophole Brewing,

51-59 Taylor Street, Springfield, from 6pm-8pm.

The “Paint the Town” fundraiser will feature food, drinks and live music, and guests will help

paint a large mural guided by professional artists. The event is free, but RSVP is required,

here, and donations are encouraged. All proceeds from the event will help fund the 10 murals to be painted in Springfield this summer. The event will include live music from Malado, food,

cash bar and an opportunity to help paint a mural, guided by professional artists.

Common Wealth Murals will also be awarding the organization’s inaugural Nelson Stevens

Award at the event to Rosemary Tracy Woods, to be presented by Michael Bobbitt,

Executive Director of the Mass Cultural Council. The award will be presented at 6:30PM.

Rosemary Tracy Woods is the executive director of The Art for the Soul gallery in downtown

Springfield. Her gallery showcases artists from diverse cultures and backgrounds and makes art accessible to everyone. Through her gallery, Woods has brought some of this country’s most renowned artists of color to the attention of Springfield’s art-loving community.

The Nelson Stevens Award is named in honor of the late AfriCOBRA member who directed the

painting of over 30 murals in Springfield in the 1970s. Common Wealth Murals will be

recreating its third Nelson Stevens mural this summer, titled “The Old, the Young, the


Common Wealth Murals will add ten new murals throughout Springfield this summer,

continuing its tradition of bringing renowned muralists and community painting initiatives to the

City since 2019. Details about its 2024 mural season will be announced soon.

To date, Common Wealth Murals has created 70 murals in Springfield and more in other Massachusetts cities and towns. The organization has also trained more than 70 local artists and teachers in community-engaged mural making, and has directly engaged thousands of people of all ages in participatory mural design and painting. Common Wealth Murals began mural-making in Springfield in 2019 with the Fresh Paint festival, and has also produced Springfield’s graffiti jams, window, bike kiosk and sidewalk chalk installations, and other temporary public art installations.


The Nelson Stevens Award honors a champion of public art who:

  • exemplifies the knowledge that murals can be force fields activated in the service of liberation

  • has nurtured, mentored and supported emerging muralists and public artists

  • has provided outstanding service to public art in Springfield

The award is named after artist, teacher, and activist, Nelson Stevens, who

passed on July 22, 2022.

  • Born 4/26/1938, Nelson was a prolific painter, whose works can be found in private collections and public museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago and Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

  • Engaged early on by the Civil Rights and Black Arts Movements of the 60s, in 1969 he became a member of the newly formed African Commune of Bad

  • Relevant Artists, known as AfriCOBRA. The AfriCOBRA principles and aesthetic are exquisitely manifest in all of his work.

  • Soon thereafter, he moved from Chicago to Western Mass to pursue a position at the University of Mass in Amherst.

  • From 1972 through 2003 he taught in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at UMass Amherst, living in Springfield for many of those years.

  • He clearly made the city his home. In 1973, he initiated a groundbreaking public art project in which he and his students created 27 murals throughout the city, 4 of which he designed and painted himself - making Springfield the only place in the country with a collection of AfriCOBRA-inspired murals.

  • Nelson’s Wall of Black Music and Tribute to Black Women were recreated by the Community Mural Institute participants using the GoodSpace Model of community-engaged polytab murals under the guidance of CMI co-facilitator Greta McLain of GoodSpace Murals.

In recognition of Mr. Stevens as an artist who embodied the spirit of

transformative public art, this year the Common Wealth Murals Board of Directors

created the THE NELSON STEVENS AWARD with the blessing of Nelson’s daughter

Nadya Stevens.

The award takes its inspiration from Nelson’s own words:

“Recognizing that the least we can do is to leave our communities more beautiful than

we found them, we have decided to do more… Some call them murals, others large

paintings; but all know them as force fields activated in the service of our liberation.” -

Nelson Stevens

In selecting a recipient for the inaugural award, the board quickly unified around a

special person who also embodies this spirit of creation and generosity.

  • Rosemary Tracy Woods’ is the Executive Director and Chief Curator of the non-profit Art for the Soul Gallery in Springfield.

  • She has brought some of this country’s most renowned artists of color to the attention of our region’s arts community. Elevating works by women and artists of diverse abilities and backgrounds, she has modeled a deep commitment to art as a medium for critical social engagement.

  • Her involvement with Common Wealth Murals is yet another expression of her commitment and influence. She was one of the first leaders in the community to partner with CWM in 2019 during the early planning phases of the first series of murals.

  • It was Ms. Woods who introduced Britt to Nelson Stevens, instigating Common Wealth Murals’ ongoing work to restore and honor his ground breaking work in Springfield.

  • As Britt explains, “Without Tracy’s guidance, friendship, encouragement, straight talk and advocacy, Common Wealth Murals would not have been able to do as much as we have, nor as well as we have. It is no exaggeration to say that without her, Common Wealth Murals would not be what it is today.”

  • In honor of Ms. Woods and the Nelson Stevens Award, the CWM Board has donated a $1000 scholarship for a local artist to participate in a community mural training.

The 2024 Award Recipient of the Nelson Stevens award is Rosemary Tracy Woods


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