DownStreet Art Unveils Fourth Public Mural Commission


Typically a sculptor of architecturally themed pieces, local artist Peter Dudek has created a series of like-minded murals to be unveiled this week at DownStreet Art Thursday.

"House Dreaming (and then some)" is the fourth public mural commission of DownStreet Art, an initiative of MCLA's Berkshire Cultural Resource Center. Based on architectural cartoons Dudek's been working on for more than a decade, the murals are part of an ongoing series. These reworked images of his sculptures can stand alone, but also relate to each other.

"There's one piece in the series called 'House Dreaming.' It's an essential motif or character as I draw houses or buildings dreaming or thinking of each other.  There's this fictitious story going through it that houses are envious of each other and other buildings - they're jealous just as architects are. The implication is that they create something that goes on to a higher life of its own desires," Dudek explained.

This, at times, can be humorous, and Dudek hopes his murals make people laugh.

"There's one called 'Not in my Backyard.' This modern structure seems to have descended from Heaven and sits between a couple of Cape-style houses. There's a feeling that something is out of whack there."

The viewer's experience will be similar to that of hearing a one-liner, Dudek explained.

"It happens quickly. It's not something you ponder over. My images use architectural propaganda and symbolism. There are different things happening, but I think people are going to get it really quickly. You know there's a joke."

Although Dudek has a history of creating public projects - usually sculptural - it's the first time he's produced a mural. "I wanted to see if my imagery would work in this format."

He finds North Adams to be an interesting backdrop for his artwork because of the way the City lost half of its downtown buildings to urban renewal projects. Starting in 1968, most of North Adams' commercial and residential buildings - many of them historic landmarks - were taken down with the promise of new retail development.

"I think the murals kind of relate to that," he said. "What should we do? Should we preserve our history or knock it down and create a new history?"

Posted over doorways, in alleys and in parking lots, "The murals will be located in different places, and some of them repeat. So, when people encounter them they might think they're seeing the same thing twice," Dudek said. "Sometimes, they'll seem out of place because they're at odds with the building they're on."

Meant to be found by accident, "One mural is over the Mohawk Theater doorway. There's one in the alley near Berkshire Bank. There's another in the parking lot next to MCLA Gallery 51. There are all sorts of little spaces where they'll be," he said.

Born and raised in nearby Adams, Mass., Dudek has exhibited his work in New York City for more than 30 years. He studied at the School of Visual Arts and at Hunter College in New York City, and now teaches at both schools. Locally, he oversees the cultural programming at Bascom Lodge on top of Mount Greylock.

The public is invited to attend a mural "crawl" - guided by Dudek - to begin at MCLA Gallery 51 at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 25. All of the murals will be on display for at least one year before they are auctioned off, with the proceeds going to a not-for-profit organization.