Egyptian artist Alaa Awad takes a break from working vigorously to complete his mural on Center Street in North Adams before its official unveiling Thursday night during Down Street Art.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Egyptian artist Alaa Awad is giving a gift to the city of North Adams: an original, nearly 60-foot-long mural on the base of the Route 2 overpass.
Awad has painted street art in Asia and Denmark and has had exhibitions and murals in Germany and throughout Egypt. This North Adams piece, though, marks his first commissioned work in the United States.
“It’s a gift for North Adams; it’s a fabulous city,” Awad said. “Everything is very nice and the people are very nice and I decided to make something that will speak to the city.”
Awad’s work draws from historical Egyptian tomb paintings, and his mural is covered in stylized figures of ancient gods, chimeric beasts and people.
Awad looks to celebrate humankind and bring Egyptian heritage back to the surface as a source of pride for Egyptians and instill ideas such as “peace, mercy, justice and balance.”
Awad is a graduate and a faculty member of the Luxor Faculty of Fine Arts and Egypt, and he teamed up with fellow artist to use art to protest censorship, social injustice, and civilian life lost during the revolution in Tahrir Square in 2011.
Awad’s mural will be unveiled June 26, along with his “Thebes” exhibit in Gallery 51, as part of the Berkshire Cultural Resource Center’s Down Street Art Initiative, which aims to bring more public art to downtown North Adams. Down Street Art runs from 5 to 9 p.m. at locations throughout downtown North Adams.
The general theme of the new North Adams mural is “Justice.” Awad said the piece is designed to point people toward the past so they can learn from it and be better equipped to make a peaceful and brighter future.
“I believe absolutely you can never make the past again, but I think we can learn from our past and refocus the positive values and principles form the past,” he said. "The past is something to learn from, and we can see…what is negative and what is positive and we must focus on things like peace and mercy.”