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Fenway gallery owner brings street art indoors

Posted by Roy Greene  April 3, 2012 12:15 PM

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A scene at the Fourth Wall Project.

Street art has come to the Fenway neighborhood in an unconventional way. While there are plenty of buildings along Brookline Avenue littered with advertisements and tags, Oliver Mak and his team, Bodega, are bringing street art indoors.

Mak, 32, is the owner and co-founder of the Fenway neighborhood street and graffiti art gallery Fourth Wall Project, founded in 2009.

“We are a legitimate institution showing artists and giving them opportunities,” said Mak, sitting at his desk in a large black office chair. The gallery’s current project, Street Wall, showcases eight national and local street and graffiti artists.

The New York City and Boston raised artist and entrepreneur, said that there is a reason the art gallery is located within Boston and not in “the neighborhoods where the culture of street art usually gets pushed to.” The reason, according to Mak, is that Fourth Wall is affecting its community in a major way.

“The gallery is our contribution to the culture of Boston,” said Mak, mentioning Bodega’s recent appearance in an Irish Whiskey Advertisement honoring groups who influence their community. Mak said the billboard could be found on Boylston Street.

“We were one of the top 40 nominees,” said Mak, “selected for what we do in our community and how it affects the neighborhood.

Bodega was recognized for being neighborhood game-changers, but local residents often misunderstand the culture of street art.

In late January, the Back Bay Association petitioned its residents to report the street art and vandalism they discovered around the Back Bay neighborhood.

Mak, sitting at his desk checking emails, looked partly amused to hear about the Back Bay Association’s efforts to retaliate against the practice of street art.

The major questions people have about street art, Mak said, are what does it mean and why do individuals choose to mark the public space.

“It could be,” Mak said “that youth do it [street art and graffiti] because they feel they will never get to own anything because everything already belongs to corporations.”

The bottom line, Mak suggested, is that street artists are trying to have a voice.

The street art scene, however, is too big for the population at large, let alone Boston residents to completely do away with the fringe culture.

“Street art is the largest movement the world has ever seen,” Mak said, “Graffiti is captured by hundreds of active participants. The art can never be co-opted by the academy or institutions.”

Mak said in a matter-of-fact tone, “Other than that it’s just fun. It’s fun to run around and be a superhero and get famous.” And after a slight pause he added, “and a lot of guys do it to get the girls.”

Really?

“Yeah, really,” he said.

Fourth Wall Project, regardless of its current success rate with the ladies, is proving not to be lacking in the fame department. Fourth Wall, winner of the 2010 Best of Boston award for best art gallery, was nominated by The Phoenix again this year. Mak named fellow contemporary art gallery, Yes Oui Si, among Fourth Wall’s competitors.

While Fourth Wall and its competitors await the Best of Boston results, the gallery has its sights set on a new project.

“We’re holding a graphic design contest for young people and all the proceeds will go to The Home for Little Wonderers,” said Mak.

The graphic design contest benefiting The Home for Little Wonderers, a children and family community service center, will be on display by Feb. 28, 2012.

This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and the Boston University News Service.

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