It’s 8:30 a.m. and the sun already feels warm on Main St. in Springfield’s South End. Birdsong can be heard beyond the roar of a passing bus. Across from a patchy, untended lot enclosed by a chainlink fence, children in backpacks skip along the sidewalk, weaving between adults. The warm weather seems to have them smiling too, off to their destinations with a youthful spring in their steps.

On the sidewalk outside Harry’s Caffè and Buckeye Bros. Smokeshop, a few gray-haired men are sipping coffee and chatting beside two large murals. One is an abstract earth-toned depiction of a boy sitting cross-legged, the other a realistic portrait of a bald man with a cigar clenched between his teeth.

I do a double-take when I spot David Glantz, the shop’s owner — and the same guy staring back at me from the mural. He’d seen me taking photos and retrieved a cigar from the shop in order to recreate the artist’s portrait. He didn’t commission the murals, he tells me, pausing a few times to exchange greetings with neighbors. They were part of the city’s graffiti clean-up initiative, painted by artist John Simpson and local kids taking part in a summer work program.

They’re two of many such murals that now brighten the landscape throughout the city. “It softens the neighborhood,” Glantz says.


— Peter Vancini,