TEWKSBURY — Tewksbury’s newest addition to its switchbox art collection is at the corner of Shawsheen and East Streets. Depicting images of a Tewksbury era gone by, the public art installation is sure to evoke memories for those who grew up in the town in the ’70s and ’80s.
“When I learned about the project I had to think for a while,” said Tewksbury native David Kelly. “I knew the other boxes had themes which were significant in Tewksbury’s history, and then I realized I should reflect on my own personal history growing up in the town.”
The switchbox art program is coordinated by the Tewksbury Beautification Committee and asks artists to use the general guidance of Tewksbury past, present and future in their designs. Kelly researched some iconic Tewksbury landmarks: Stuart’s department store, the Wamesit drive-in, the Wamesit bowling alley, and Funland mini golf.
“I referred to old photographs online and used the public library for images,” said Kelly.
In some instances, he used his memory.
Kelly, a United States postal service employee and Navy veteran, had always been interested in painting, but was never formally trained. Inspired by Bob Ross’s soothing style and landscapes, Kelly devoured books about painting and taught himself.
“I was always complimented on my work in high school, which was nice,” said Kelly.
After a self-described 20-year hiatus from painting, Kelly had a chance encounter at a party in 2014 which focused him back into painting.
“We were painting landscapes and people were saying how realistic mine looked,” giving Kelly the confidence he needed to pick it back up.
Fast forward to 2020 and Kelly does commissioned work and was thrilled to work on the switchbox. He’s building his portfolio and hopes to paint as a second career. Kelly’s wife Lisa is his biggest fan.
“David is so talented and his paintings are so realistic,” she said, describing images of family cats and dogs, and even a portrait of her grandparents.
People ask him to paint landscapes and summer homes. Lisa Kelly brought lunch to her husband as he worked on the switchbox.
“People were so supportive, honking and waving and recognizing the landmarks,” she added, often joining him as he painted the box over several days.
Kelly is proud of his contribution to the community and hopes people will enjoy looking at the box.
Other switchboxes which are part of the program in Tewksbury include the Carnation Capital at North and Andover Streets, Captain Trull at North and International Drive, Mico Kaufmann at Andover and Radcliffe Road, Tewksbury State Hospital at East and Livingston Street, and Tew-Mac airport at Chandler and East.
David Kelly may be found on Facebook at David Kelly Acrylic Art.