Neighborhood personalities infuse hope
By Diana Schoberg
Kathie Mainzer of Bella Luna, 405 Centre St., thinks the
mural on her restaurant is an affirmation of the community.
Kathie Mainzer likes to think that as the gateway to the Hyde
Square area, the mural on the side of her restaurant says to passersby, “Welcome
to a fun zone.”
Of course, it wasn’t always that way.
Mainzer and some neighbors opened the Bella Luna restaurant in
1993 in a building that had been boarded up for several years after
landlord Stavros Frantzis closed down a dangerous nightclub. Frantzis
was looking for a nice sit-down restaurant to bring some stability
to the area, she explains.
“People were very scared to come to Jamaica Plain at that
time,” she says as she stands outside the space-age themed
restaurant, where the menu features “astral antipasto” and “stellar
chicken” and paper stars hang from the ceiling.
Mainzer took a “broken windows” philosophy from neighborhood
policing when she invited a neighborhood artist to paint an Italian
scene on the large graffiti-covered wall on the building: “You
fix a window and it makes people feel better and take better care
of the space.”
The artist, Heidi Schork, went on to direct the city’s mural
program, which gives teens summer jobs painting murals across the
city. Schork asked the restaurant if they’d like to update
their mural, and in 1997 the Mural Crew painted “A Tribute
The mural, a collage of three paintings of the French post-impressionist
painter, had a lot of fruit and trees and “a couple of naked
ladies, which was fun,” Mainzer explains. “It just
sort of reflected the tropical spirit of Jamaica Plain.”
For this mural, painted in 2001, the restaurant wanted something
to represent the people of the neighborhood.
A few years later Schork came back with a new group of students
and asked the restaurant owners if it they would like another mural.
This time, Mainzer says, they had something particular in mind.
“We really wanted something that told a more specific story
about Jamaica Plain and the people who helped to create this part
of Jamaica Plain,” she says.
And so, the current mural, painted during the summer of 2001,
celebrates Hyde Square. The mural depicts the Jamaica Plain World’s
Fair, an annual festival in the neighborhood, as well as triple-deckers
and Jamaica Pond. Community members painted on the mural represent
the neighborhood’s spirit: Pepe Gutierrez, one of the owners
of a restaurant down the street; Tony Barros, who Mainzer calls
the “unofficial mayor of Jamaica Plain”; and Frantzis,
the landlord. Greats like Bob Marley and Tito Puente grace the
mural as well. Our Lady of Guadalupe sits on the edge of the building
to give it positive energy.
“I think it’s a real boost, a positive affirmation
of the neighborhood,” Mainzer says. “It makes people
feel good. It makes them feel pride in who we are and what we’ve
been able to accomplish.”