“It could be you”: POW WOW Worcester 2021 enables artists to make their dreams come true while paying them to young people in the city
Three years ago anxiety gnawed at Grhimm Xavier as he created a small painting for POW WOW Worcester.
The second edition of the festival featured ‘Welcome to Worcester’ paintings, which artists created and were ultimately sold to raise funds. The small leaflets were a far cry from the huge murals that cover many of the city’s walls.
Still, the nerves almost paralyzed Xavier.
“It was the first time my art had been in public and I was scared,” Xavier said, lengthening the last word of the sentence. “I can’t stand being in front of people. This is my biggest [fear]. I’m kind of super shy. When I was given this opportunity, the most important thing was that if I do this, I will never stand around my job.
This week Xavier stood in public as he created his latest piece for this year’s POW WOW Worcester art festival. Atop a lifting platform outside the entrance to Jacob Hiat Magnet School on Main Street, Xavier spray painted a mural in public that thousands of school-aged children can see daily.
“It doesn’t bother me anymore,” said Xavier. “It’s part of the job. I actually feel better now. I’m going to show up somewhere to do something and leave it better than before.
As a Worcester native drawn to art, POW WOW Worcester was a form of validation for Xavier. His affiliation with the festival began as an unsuspecting volunteer surrounded by several of his muralist idols.
In the fifth edition, his idols returned to Worcester, but now as his peers.
“I cried. I cried immediately. It’s one thing to tell yourself, I’ve always wanted this to happen, especially when you’re a kid,” Xavier said. “Seeing him start in Worcester, five years ago it was almost liberating in a way, if you really like something and have pure intention for it, it’s going to show up somewhere. “
The message is expressed through Xavier’s mural in elementary school. Sky blue paint covers most of the brick wall. Puffy white clouds accentuate the blue with children sitting on them.
“It was designed with the intention of reminding them that the sky is the limit and that they can always keep their heads in the clouds,” Xavier said.
A few steps from Xavier, Alex Ferror was also standing on top of an aerial platform. Unlike Xavier, this year’s festival represented his first glimpse of Worcester. Ferror was born in Brazil and now lives in Portugal.
Despite growing up in different hemispheres, they found themselves side by side to paint murals with similar messages.
Ferror’s fresco showed two children sailing in an upside down umbrella across the night sky. The art evoked the idea of children chasing their dreams.
“I really wanted to create some whimsical images because I feel like sometimes we lose that since we were kids and even more so in adulthood,” Ferror said. “We no longer allow ourselves to be dreamers.
This year’s festival focuses on the theme of amplifying the voices of young people in the main south.
Artists arrived in Worcester from the United States, as far as California, as well as Jamaica, Canada and Brazil.
When POW WOW first arrived in Worcester, Ferror had just started painting professionally. Previously, he worked as a commercial director for a chain of more than 100 Brazilian retail stores.
“It was a lot of stress and a lot of pressure. I loved what I was doing, but I like it even better, ”said Ferror.
Ferror quit his job and traveled. He signed up for graffiti classes with some of his art mentors and “it all came together.”
The journey is expressed in Ferror’s mural in Worcester.
“Just as he tries to see the world through [children’s] eyes, I would like to imagine them on this umbrella. If that dreamy landscape could get into their heads, if they could imagine themselves on it, for a second, it’s mission accomplished, ”Ferror said.
Hiero Veiga understands firsthand the vehicle that art can provide to young artists. Veiga grew up in Brockton but now lives in Miami.
Veiga’s mural appeared on a wall inside the Lakeside Apartment complex on Lakeside Avenue. The housing complex has brought Veiga back to its Brockton neighborhood. Veiga remembered the houses, the feel and even the smell.
The neighborhood gave him unexpected comfort in a new location, he said.
“To be honest, it’s emotional, it is,” Veiga said. “I do this for my friends, for my mom, for the people here and for people like me. I am honored. It’s more of a gift to me than anything else.
Two paddling pools sprayed water in a playground not far from the platform where Veiga created his mural. Children were constantly running beside him as he transformed the wall.
Veiga wanted everyone to understand that he was once a kid running around a similar neighborhood with big dreams.
“This POW WOW, this event has been at the top of my bucket list for years,” said Veiga. “Because it’s my home. Of course you want to go home and show the love of your hometown, so I have to support … my people, for all Cape Verdeans around the world and for everyone who comes from there. It could be you too.