Claudia Lefko: Bennie featured in mural

Published: 2/5/2021 5:49:07 PM Like so many others in Northampton, I didn’t know Bennie Johnson personally, but I knew of him, and ...

Published: 2/5/2021 5:49:07 PM

Like so many others in Northampton, I didn’t know Bennie Johnson personally, but I knew of him, and of course was used to seeing him downtown in his cape, drumming on his plastic bucket and singing on Main Street. I was sorry to read of his passing.

In January 2009, two local artists, Harriet Diamond and Lydia Nettler, worked with visiting Iraqi artist Thamer Dawood and a group of 15 local youth to paint a mural about Northampton. The 13-foot by 5-foot canvas painting was one of 13 transcultural projects organized by the Iraqi Children’s Art Exchange under the title: “How Will They Know Us?”

Artists and youth were asked to reflect on their city or town, on their culture and their lives and paint something that would represent them and their community to youth in the Middle East and in other cities/towns in the U.S. We met at the former Center for the Arts Space in Old School Commons, to share ideas, agree on a theme and paint over two days.

And what did the kids from Northampton paint into their mural? You can see photos at the website:

In the very center, in front of City Hall, they painted a large tree with a peace sign on it, and in the tree: Bennie Johnson in his red cape, smiling and drumming on that plastic bucket.

I think we contacted Bennie to tell him he was a feature in the mural, but I’m not sure how many of his friends and family knew of the project or knew Bennie had figured so heavily into the local consciousness of the town’s youth. I wanted to add my reminiscence — and condoleces — in this time or mourning as family and friends gather to remember Bennie. So here’s a photo of that section of the mural. You can see the entire mural at the website.

Claudia Lefko


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Newsrust: Claudia Lefko: Bennie featured in mural
Claudia Lefko: Bennie featured in mural
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