Rainbow City

A Profile On David Fichter

April 2017

Written by Tanya Cimenian


Cambridge, Massachusetts.

If you take a look at the city around you, chances are, you will see art. Walk down Mass Ave., and you’ll see even more displays of public art. Murals, to be specific. Bold, colorful, gigantic murals, covering the sides of buildings and gracing the crumbling walls. And if you’re ever in Cambridge and you happen to see such a mural, there’s a good chance it was created by someone by the name of David Fichter.

A Massachusetts native, David Fichter is a renowned muralist and mosaic artist, and has been creating public art pieces in Cambridge for the past thirty years. Whether it's the mural on the side of Trader Joe’s or on the side of a local coffee shop, Fichter’s art is all over Cambridge. But it doesn’t stop there. Fichter has created murals and mosaics all over the United States, and has even spread his artistic talent to the rest of the globe. From Massachusetts to Nicaragua to Armenia, David Fichter is leaving his mark with his paintbrushes everywhere he travels, making him one of the east coast’s most highly recognized public artists.

Some of David Fichter’s most notable murals include "Sunday Afternoon on the Charles River" and "The Potluck", both in Cambridge, Massachusetts, "Viva Villa Victoria" in central Boston, Massachusetts, "Children Are The Future" in Silver Spring, Maryland, "Chinatown Mural" in Chinatown in Boston, Massachusetts, "Singing in the Dark Times" in Atlanta, Georgia, "The Water Science Mural", in Madison, Wisconsin, and "Links" in Racine, Wisconsin.

The mural making process is not an easy one, according to David. Many of David’s murals are done as community projects, more specifically, with school kids, and so for these community murals, the creative process can take months of planning before any painting even begins. David says that usually murals done with kids are for after school extracurriculars or art classes, and so the kids are given much of the creative control in the design process. Anywhere from 300-400 drawings for ideas are submitted, and David picks the best of them. The kids’ ideas are combined into one final drawing, and that is then enlarged. David tells the kids that picking the best drawings is like “spaghetti and meatballs”. There are 3-4 meatballs, or main focal points chosen from 3-4 different winning drawings, and the rest is spaghetti; or background art that didn’t quite make the cut to be in the main spotlight. Eventually when the mural is painted and the art comes full circle, the kids get to see their art on display, usually on the side of their school. David says it’s inspiring to see the sense of pride that the art gives the kids. It is no wonder that he has been continuing to do this for over thirty years.

One of Fichter’s most well known pieces is his ongoing piece in Somerville, Massachusetts called the "The Mystic River Mural". "The River Mural" is designed to show nature’s beauty and promote wildlife conservation. "The River Mural" is usually painted as part of a summer program that David created, where community members explore the river and translate the sights they saw into art. Every year, groups of students, naturalists and other community members send David their ideas for paintings, and the best make it into the final design. Afterwards, David, along with Somerville’s community of artists, come together to paint "The Mystic River Mural". This mural’s design is changed every year, and it is the largest mural David has ever worked on. He stated that this project brings people together, and that it is very rewarding to see the hard work that goes into it annually. David did not began his career painting with community members, but over time, after seeing the impact that his art had on the community, he began asking people for assistance as part of a fully immersive art experience.

However amazing Somerville’s art may be, David stated that some of his favorite mural creations have been in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Lawrence is a city that has a rich history with immigration. From the 1920’s to the early 1970’s, Lawrence experienced a strong influx of immigrants from all over Europe. In the late 70’s, a wave of immigrants from Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Vietnam all settled in Lawrence. Today, the city is incredibly diverse. So in the 1990’s, when David was asked to commission a mural with Lawrence’s local high school kids, he wanted the city’s history with immigration to be reflected in the art. The kids, many of whom were descended or related to immigrants themselves, sent David their ideas, and helped to create a piece that would reflect on their own culture and backgrounds. The experience, even though it was more than two decades ago ago, was incredibly rewarding and inspiring to David. In Lawrence, David’s art has a special place in the community, so he finds himself coming back to Lawrence quite often to fuel the movement even further. Lawrence, Massachusetts stands as one of David’s favorite places to paint murals, and his first painting back in the 90’s remains as one of his all-time favorite pieces, and the piece that he takes the most pride in as well.

After talking about his experiences in Lawrence, I asked David if he ever creates a piece with a specific meaning or message in mind. David simply told me that “art has the power to impact the mindsets of people.” With immigration in mind in the mural in Lawrence, it helped people to illustrate their own experiences, especially since it was a community collaboration. The art became a part of people’s lives, and while it might not have a direct or political message, it revitalizes the idea that “everyone comes from somewhere,” and that this country was built on immigrants. In today’s day and age with growing immigration conflicts, David believes that the art can have a powerful influence over society, and that art is his channel to help change the world.

Overall, David said that being an artist, especially a public artist, can be exhausting, but it all pays off because of the people and how it impacts them. Whether they are just looking at the murals or helping to make them themselves, “collaborating with people is rewarding,” and makes everything worth it. In his travels, David said that he’s met a lot of wonderful people and had a lot of life-changing experiences, all of which may never have been possible if he hadn’t become a public artist. David also stated that “street art is more inclusive and democratic,” because it becomes a part of your life, unlike art in a museum. If you pass by the same painting every day, it becomes imbedded in your life. David also told me that street art is more rewarding than other types of art as well, such as photography, because instead of taking a picture, you are giving back something that will engrain itself in the community and become the fabric of people’s lives.

Even though David Fichter began his career as an artist more than thirty years ago, he is still going strong and creating more art each and everyday. David's next piece of art will be a mosaic. It is currently in the creative process, but it is set to be in Newton, Massachusetts. This mosaic is going to be another community project, and will be completed with Newton’s local school kids. David is planning to use students from all age groups, and has stated that it will be an 8’ by 7’ mosaic made of cut glass tile. David hopes that this piece will be more than just a community project, but a family one as well. David told me that it is inspiring to work with kids time and time again, because they are hungry for art and bursting with creativity. David has touched the lives of so many people with his art has turned Cambridge, Lawrence, and Somerville into cities bursting with life and color. It was an honor to talk to David, and it will be exciting to see where his creativity goes in the future.  

If you would like to check out David’s work, visit his website at http://www.davidfichter.com/ for more information or download the Curator app to track where David will create his next art piece.