ASHLAND – Framingham illustrator, artist, and designer Rob Levine has a mural in Marathon Park in Ashland, depicting the first Boston Marathon in 1897.
The mural is also featured in the official 121st Annual Boston Marathon program book.
Ashland, as many are unaware, was the original start of the Boston Marathon.
“The mural is a moment in time,” said Levine, owner of Levine Design and Illustration.
“We see the 15 runners at the starting line, which was merely a line scraped into the dirt road,” said Levine about the mural. “At the time, the idea of running this distance was considered to be unwise and quite dangerous.”
Levine said back then the “race drew spectators locally and others who came in by train from Boston. Through my interpretation I hope that viewers are able to sense the raw nature and intensity of this maiden race.”
“As an artist, I’m thrilled to have my work displayed as public art,” said Levine, who is also owner of Illustrated Places & Spaces, which focuses on custom illustration of outdoor landmarks, locations, and venues.
“For the work I do, I typically have a certain intent in mind. I may be illustrating a map, bringing an historic moment to life, or highlighting an area of a town. My original intent is of no consequence once it’s up for the viewing public. It’s the viewer who owns it at this point. Some relate to the subject matter. Some simply find it useful (i.e. map). Others see it as a work of art. Some may simply be happy that something is covering up an ugly fence. That’s the great thing about public art, it’s meant for the public to absorb, interpret, and appreciate as they please,” said Levine.
The Marathon mural started back in 2014, when Nadine Heaps of We’re All In This Together! asked Levine to create a mural for her fence in front of her Ashland business.
“She wanted something that would beautify, engage, and convey her shared pride in her town,” said Levine.
That “mural was a huge success and caught the attention of Steve Greenberg of the Ashland Sporting Association,” said Levine.
“Steve was interested in producing a permanent mural to be placed at Marathon Park in Ashland. This mural was to represent that first run on April 19, 1897,” said Levine. “After agreeing to the project, I began my research.”
Levins said he worked closely with Stephen Flynn of the Ashland Business Association and Cliff Wilson of the Ashland Historical Society, to piece together the events of the day.
“Unfortunately, there really wasn’t much to work from,” said Levine.
“We found a few photos of the Mill from where the race began and some drawings which were published the day after the race. We visited the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) in Boston to search their archives. Again, we found that there was not much preserved from that day in 1897. I worked with what I had and created this ‘interpretation’ of what that moment may have looked like,” said Levine.
The project took approximately 6 months and was unveiled in October 2016.
Levine lives in Framingham with his wife, son, and daughter.