Mystic River Mural Project
While at the Somerville Arts Council, Miller started the Mystic River Mural Project with muralist David Fichter and science educator Scott Carpenter. This summer program provided an intensive educational experience and much needed jobs for a small group of low-income teens while creating a landmark mural mounted on the retaining walls of Highway I93. The site was directly across a busy road from Somerville's largest public housing development, where many of the teens live with their families.
Highway I93 had been rammed through this area of Somerville despite signficant community opposition, cutting residents off from riverfront that could have been a valuable environmental resource -- comparable to the Charles River along Cambridge neighborhoods. Mammoth grey cement walls blocked visual and physical access. Noise and air pollution blighted the neighborhood. A major service road running alongside the highway posed a danger to pedestrians. One dingy, dark and uninviting underpass provided access to the lost Mystic River.
Every year since 1996, The Mystic River Mural Project leads teens on a journey to learn about the history and ecology of the river through adventurous exploration and close observation. The teens go on canoe trips, look at water under a microscope, photograph birds spotted during walks, and research local plant and animal life. David Fichter designs a new segment -- painted on panels attaced to the highway walls -- based on each group's experiences and interests. The mural is still evolving, currently one of the longest in New England. Its imagery as well as its role as a huge "billboard" marking access to the river, have restored the river to the community.
The Mystic River Mural Project received a National Urban River Award, Gold Medal for Education, from American Rivers (1997).