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Volunteers transform vacant storefront eyesores in downtown SoBo

Imagine downtown buildings in South Boston as blank canvasses ready for a painter’s brush, and you have the makings of a project to turn vacant storefronts into works of art.

Several volunteer artists are busy painting the windows of several vacant storefronts converting what may have been an eyesore into something more palatable for those driving through and visiting downtown.

Donna Davis, Donna Shiflett, as well as Judith Mura and her daughter, Jordan Whitewolf, were busy Friday painting a temporary blank plywood wall in front of the building housing the former South Boston Fitness business.

Davis said she was contacted by downtown business owner Shelby Talbott about helping with the project, started by Destination Downtown South Boston.

“They were looking for artists.  I’m an amateur artist, but I’ve never done anything to this scale,” explained Davis.

When repairs and other remodeling to the building formerly housing South Boston Fitness is complete, the newly painted façade will be taken down and stored for later use as a backdrop at The Prizery or maybe for use on a float in a future parade.

The artistic-minded Mura and Whitewolf are new to the area, having moved to Alton from Hawaii in October with the intent to start an organic farming business.

“We lived in Hawaii and traveled all over South America for a year before we came here.  It’s a gorgeous place,” said Mura.

“We want to support the community, and that’s why we’re helping with this.”

“We love it here, and we’re happy to be here,” added Whitewolf.  “We’ve always been interested in living in the country.”

Talbott, owner of Sacs of SoBo, was one of the driving forces in getting the project off the ground and running, according to Destination Downtown Executive Director Tamyra Vest.

“Destination Downtown South Boston is painting vacant downtown storefront windows starting with the (former) art gallery,” explained Vest.

“We wanted to get other vacant storefront windows involved in the project, and we had the idea to go to other downtown vacant property owners and get their permission to do the same thing.”

At least two other building owners have given their permission to have their vacant storefronts painted, but not in a way that prevents them from marketing their properties for future businesses, Vest pointed out.

“It’s just a way to beautify downtown, and one of our missions is to support the arts on the street,” Vest explained.

“It’s just a way to beautify the vacant storefront windows and attract people downtown.

“The reaction so far has been wonderful.  Not a lot has been done yet, but people like to come by and look at the art, ride by and wave and stop to see what the artists are doing.

“It creates a lot of buzz and interest.”

Talbott said she just got tired of looking at vacant storefront windows and decided to do something about it.

“What started it was when the art gallery closed,” said Talbott.  “They left the windows open there, and I commented I wish something artsy could be done to the windows just to announce something was coming.”

Talbott said she was looking at the blank wooden façade across the street from her business and got permission to recruit some local artists to paint it.

“We have two storefronts where the owners have given us permission to paint their storefronts, and that’s going to be in the next block,” she explained.

“There’s an adventure in art going on in South Boston.”