"Beat the Belt" restored

"Beat the Belt" restored

Work began June 19 on the iconic LaCasse painting at Micro Center

Photos:
1. Tuesday, June 20: Artist Bernard LaCasse assists restorers who started work the previous day on his "Beat the Belt" mural. LaCasse stands second from right, wearing a red cap. Beside him, wearing a blue-striped apron, is Cambridge Arts Council Director Rika Smith McNally. A team from the organization assists.
2. Friday, June 30: Restoration completed. A public celebration of the project will soon take place -- date to be announced.

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June 20: Work is under way to restore “Beat the Belt”, the 75-foot-long mural on the side of the Micro Center building at 730 Memorial Drive. Artist Bernie LaCasse joins art conservators and volunteers to re-do the scene, which has graced the side of the Micro Center building at 730 Memorial Drive since the 1980s.

“The mural has already been repainted once, with the help of the artist,” said Rika Smith McNally, Director of Art Conservation for the Cambridge Arts Council, as her crew of staffers and volunteers mounted ladders to restore the surface and renew the colors. The work celebrates the power of ordinary people to make a difference, she said.

LaCasse already took part in an earlier preservation effort in 1995, doing much of the repainting himself. In the current 2017 project, staff from the Cambridge Arts Council will be at work on the mural most days between 10 and 4 p.m. through at least June 27, depending on weather. Spectators are welcome to stop by to watch or ask questions.

The giant scene shown on the wall celebrates the triumph of people over machines. It depicts the successful effort of neighborhood residents like Ansti Benfield of Cambridge, beginning back in the 1960s, to block construction of the proposed Inner Belt Highway, which would have been an extension of Route I-95.

According to the 2012 article in ArchitectureBoston cited above, the highway project was first proposed in 1948. It gathered steam officially during the ‘sixties, but citizens began banding together to save their homes, neighborhoods, and open spaces.

Cambridge was the first municipality to organize resistance to the massive multi-lane highway project. To duck a stretch of I-93, the route had been laid out in a way that would have displaced the Brookline/Elm Street neighborhoods and split Cambridge in half. But sixties protesters from Brookline, Boston, and Somerville joined those of other threatened cities in a coalition that extended all the way up to governor Francis Sargent and finally brought the project to a stop in 1970.

“We’ve been monitoring the mural since 2000; there has been a good deal of fading and flaking, and there was damage from the bike rack and from the litter of leaves, snow, and broken glass that accumulated along the bottom,” Ms. McNally said. An anti-ultraviolet coating is being added to combat further fading after the repainting is done.