What’s Happening on Main Streets

February 7, 2014
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City planners frequently cite the arrival of artists into urban zones as the precursor of rapid gentrification. Areas like the South End, South Boston, Roslindale, Charlestown and Jamaica Plain that were once considered blue-collar and overlooked by many in the past are currently red-hot in the real estate market. The rich artistic influence that flows naturally through the lifeblood of Mission Hill neighborhood is becoming more apparent every day. The proximity of the globally renowned MFA and Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, combined with the SMFA and MassArt, has made this neighborhood a natural habitat for art-focused individuals. For generations, artistic people have coexisted here with the motley mulligan stew of folks who have made Mission Hill home. The upcoming Parker/Terrace Streets development will surely attract more artists and environmentally conscious types to the Hill, and as we all know, once you are here it is hard not to fall in love with the place.

Lisa Fraggos has been putting together art exhibits at various locations around the area in recent years and last month hosted a show at the Mission Bar featuring local artist Tina Pankievich. Tina earned her BFA in 2000 from the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Fla., and is the fourth generation of her family living at her Parker Street home. She also holds a master’s degree in marketing, which she uses in her job with Hitachi Data Systems Academy. Tina’s exhibit combined two of her great passions: sketching and her Mission Hill neighborhood. When asked what has inspired the works featured in the show, she stated, “These scenes each evoke rich and powerful memories with many wonderful people. It seems that I know everyone around here. It would be weird to live anywhere else.”

Pablo Picasso once said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Boston Main Streets is making a concerted effort this year to encourage the artistic aspects of neighborhood districts. Mayor Marty Walsh’s previous comments on the importance of art as a vital element in the livability of a city is taking hold already. This coming April’s ArtWeek Boston is encouraging various neighborhoods to come together to form community partnerships to explore ArtWeek Windows and Walkways (or other creative ideas). To learn more, check out artweekboston.org. Springtime will be here before you know it.

While writing this column on Jan. 31, some great news in the Mission Hill business community reached my desk. Longtime Penguin Pizzeria manager Pam Carthy gave birth to twin girls at Beth Israel hospital. Pam is beloved in Mission Hill for her enthusiasm, her kindness to others and her ability to croon a beautiful ballad better than Judy Garland. Hannah and Molly arrived a little ahead of schedule and all are doing fine. Pam and her husband Damo are on Cloud 9 with their first-born lasses, and I hear that the gals at the Flynn House have their knitting needles clicking on overdrive preparing outfits for the new arrivals.

Speaking of the Flynn House, I attended the swell surprise 80th birthday bash for lifelong Mission Hiller Anna Adams. The honoree beamed as Raisa Karmiy, speaking for all the seniors at that elderly development at RTH, said that she knows Anna is a “fine mother” because of the way that all six of Anna’s adult children are constantly visiting her, and how she interacts with her grandchildren. Raisa remarked that while she was “born in a socialist country and Anna in a capitalist country,” their lives were very similar and they understand each other and are such good friends.

In Mission Hill you are likely to encounter people from every corner of the world. Most of our local merchants are first-generation Americans striving to attain the American Dream. A good number of RTH residents I’ve met personify the ideals of Emma Lazarus’ poem affixed to Lady Liberty’s pedestal, about those “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” The term “diversity” is becoming trite from overuse by the media and in our political discourse. Mission Hill embodies that melting pot which the United States aspires to be. All sorts of people here get along with each other just fine. I can’t help but wonder that if our elected leaders in Washington, D.C. had each spent a little time living in Mission Hill, our nation would be in much better shape.

The writer is the executive director of Mission Hill Main Streets.

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