The Kingsboro Park Mural in JP

The Kingsboro Park mural was commissioned by Michael Dupuy of Streetcar Wine & Beer as a tribute to the community that graciously welcomed him and his shop to their Jamaica Plain neighborhood in 2012. Designed by Josh Luke of Boston’s Best Dressed Signs, the mural celebrates public art as a medium that democratizes art by making it available for all to view, experience, and critique. The mural incorporates Massachusetts, Boston, and Jamaica Plain site-specific imagery and honors the technologies that historically allowed art and music to become accessible to the masses. 

The layout of the design was inspired by chromolithography, a 19th century color printing technology that changed the way the average person related to art. Most chromolithographs of the time were used as advertisements for everything from soap to rapid transportation, but chromolithography also played a large role in art reproduction and education. The industry thrived in Boston in the late 19th century and one particularly successful firm, Louis Prang’s factory, was located just down the street from Kingsboro Park at 286 Roxbury St. in Roxbury.

A single chromolithograph print requires up to forty stones, each of which prints a single color, building the image up by overlaying the colors to create depth and shading. The stone pictured in the Kingsboro Park mural is printing the final color in an interpretation of Alphonse Mucha’s “Feather”—here, a vibrant blue.

The image of a music box in the right hand vignette window extends the theme of accessible art into the realm of music. Much like the chromolithograph, which allowed the average person to afford an art reproduction, the music box was the first technology that empowered people to bring recorded music into their homes. The movement towards accessible art and music that the chromolithograph and the music box ushered in broadened the elite confines of art appreciation. 

The “PVS” inscription on the music box refers to the Pre-Vinylite Society, an informal society founded by Josh Luke and Meredith Kasabian of Best Dressed Signs (we sneak it in to almost every sign we paint). The Pre-Vinylite Society is a loose network of sign enthusiasts and advocates for an improved urban aesthetic. The idea of a “pre-vinylite” world connotes a time before vinyl signage decimated the hand painted sign industry in the 1980s but in this case, it also refers to pre-vinyl recorded music devices, such as the music box.

The mural also addresses narrowing degrees of locality, paying homage to the state of Massachusetts, the City of Boston, Jamaica Plain, and the building that the mural is physically painted on. The groceries, fruits, and vegetables depicted in the center vignette, as well as the mayflowers that weave throughout the mural as a whole, represent the building’s past as a grocery store and florist. The black-capped chickadee, the Massachusetts state bird, is dedicated to the memory of Marie Sheehan Kurash, 1943-2013, and Jamaica Plain resident from 1943-1969. 

Special thanks to Kenji Nakayama, Sean O'Connor, Keith Zorn, and Josh Lafayette for their help in bringing the Kingsboro Park mural to life! 

Rags, Zines, and Blogs!

About a month ago, Andy and Jenna from STEEZ Magazine came by to interview Josh, Kenji, and me. They brought some beers and we had a great day hanging out, shooting the shit, and talking signs. The result is a 10 page feature on Best Dressed Signs in Issue 28, and we couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out! Josh and Kenji hand lettered the titles on the cover and Mike Chew’s photo of Josh working on There’s Never an Off Season looks amazing! You can read it online here (it starts on page 118) but you should pick up a copy as well! 

We also just got our copies of Colt Bowden’s How to Paint Signs and Influence People Volume #2: CASUAL LETTERING. This edition is a step up from the last one (which is saying a lot because the last one ruled too!) and is available in regular print and a special letterpress edition. Here are just a few examples of the awesomeness contained within its pages!

Front cover and back cover on the letterpress edition by Ken Davis.

Casual alphabet by Kenji Nakayama.

James Cooper of Dapper Signs in Bristol, UK. 

…and Mr. Josh Luke himself, with some added touches by Colt. (Who can resist the Brando?!)  

In other literary news, I recently had the honor of being asked by Sam Roberts, founder and manager of the Ghost Signs Archive, to write a guest post for their website.

This experience, along with the inspiration from Colt’s zine, prompted me to start the Pre-Vinylite Society blog–a collaborative writing venue for literary-inclined Pre-Vinylites to share their thoughts on all things sign related and beyond. Check it out and submit some writing!! There are talks about including some submissions in a future edition of How to Paint Signs and Influence People! 

You can also add your name to the Pre-Vinylite Society Contact List by clicking your way through the *UNITE* section.