In 1997, Medford artist Adele Travisano was inspired by art exhibited in the windows of businesses in Somerville’s Davis Square. She believed that Medford artists could do likewise. So, that summer in West Medford Square, local artists were assigned a place of business to display their artwork for the season. This tradition continued for the next few years and expanded to include Medford Square and parts of Haines Square.
In 2002, with artist Barbara Zeles as chairperson, we celebrated with a dance at Medford City Hall to kick off the summer season of the Doc Kountze Festival. Two bands played and it was a big success. Each year the number of artists grew in anticipation of this event. Meanwhile, Medford Arts and Artists had begun meeting informally on a monthly basis, with guest artists speaking about their work.
Meanwhile in 2000, The West Medford Open Studios formed a non-profit organization to display artwork in this close-knit neighborhood where homeowners, schools, and businesses would host an artist for the weekend. The concept was that people would visit, walk around, view, or buy art for sale by local artists. WMOS continues to be a wildly successful annual event, and in 2021 it was an outdoor festival held in Duggar Park, with many hundreds of artists, artisans, and attendees.
In 2003, Patty Saunders stepped in for Adele Travisano as chairperson of Medford Arts and Artists while also chairing the Doc Kountze Festival. This would be the last year of the window art displays for the art groups as recruiting volunteers became too difficult. The following year in 2004, Sharon Kennedy hosted an all-day event at the West Medford Congregational Church, calling it the “Seven Year Itch” for the Doc Kountze Festival. With music and entertainment all day long it was a big success.
While these activities were going on, a group of artists from West Medford Open Studios and Medford Arts and Artists were meeting to discuss the idea of converting one of Medford’s old schools into an arts and cultural center. Medford was in the process of replacing older elementary and middle schools with new schools and having some of the old school buildings sold and renovated for use as condos, etc. The “building committee” toured many of the schools in the city and finally determined that Swan School on the corner of Washington St. and Park St. was best suited for artist studio space and classrooms. Along with TV3, the group then started the long arduous task of forming a non- profit, creating a curriculum for teaching classes, and interviewing artists interested in renting space.
In 2004, the artists lost their bid to obtain the building for an arts center. It was also the demise of Medford Arts and Artists, as many artists simply left the organization and moved on. But just as the legendary “ phoenix” rose from the ashes, a small dedicated group of people got together and the Medford Arts Center, Inc (MACI) to encourage and promote an appreciation of the arts in Medford and provide a way to support our community's artists.
Between 2011 and 2014, MACI ran the Mystic Art Gallery in Medford Square, which provided a funky space for artists to display and sell their work and hold receptions and other events. MACI was a founding member of the Medford Film Collaborative, which as programmed many films dealing with art and artistic inspiration.
In 2015 MACI moved into a large open storefront in the Meadow Glen Mall, where members displayed and sold their art and held public events. But less than a year later, the mall closed completely to allow Wegmans grocery stores to develop the property.
At that point a group of MACI members embarked upon a brand-new option: a traveling road show, in the form of a renovated school bus! In early 2016 we held a kickoff meeting at the Medford Public Library, where almost twenty people brainstormed ideas for getting and fixing up a vehicle, programs, and collaborators. In 2016 MACI member Mike Oliver initiated a relationship between MACI and the Medford Technical Vocational High School, which took on the exciting challenge of retrofitting the vehicle . Students cleaned, sanded, repaired, and painted the vehicle to a brilliant and attention-grabbing aqua blue! The Graphic Arts department put together a great promotional video, and the Engineering Department created a plan for storage space.
Meanwhile we reached out for suggestions for a name. Out of the dozens of ideas that were submitted, the Working Group narrowed the choices to three finalists. Then a public vote was held to select the final name: MARV (or Mobile Arts Resource Vehicle). Over the next few years MARV became dearly beloved for bringing art into the community--showing up at many many events for the next four years.
When COVID-19 locked us down in 2020, we turned on a dime and created a virtual program called Tuesdays with MARV (in Season 1) and Arts After Dark (in Season 2).
The 2021 Season featured:
In the summer of 2021, after MARV had been parked for 18 months, we found out that the mechanics and the body had suffered so much from the long sitting around that the bus really couldn't be driven anymore. The cost to fix it would have been exorbitant, so we made the difficult decision to reture MARV. We are immensely grateful to MARV, the team that created and implemented MARV''s programming, and everyone who appreciated the events themselves, Medford won't be the same without the aqua bus!
We want to give a special shout out to ArtsMedford members Sharon Fischer, Celia Lee, Nancy Leslie, Laurel Siegel, Susan Altman, and Sarah Beardslee, who created and implemented MARV's programming. Also a fond wave to Kristen Broderick for being an intrepid driver and event worker.
We made a short slideshow to celebrate the life of MARV. Watch it below!
Arts After Dark, Tuesdays with MARV, and all the other MARV programs were generously supported over the years in part by grants from the Medford Arts Council, a local commission that is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the City of Medford, and from ArtsAlive Medford Foundation, Inc., Tufts University, and several individuals.