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"Beat the Belt"

LaCasse, Bernard

Central Square/Cambridgeport, Mural

727 Memorial Drive

Title: Beat the Belt 
Date: 1980
Materials: Acrylic on masonry 
Dimensions: 13' x 75'

"It took from 1963 to 1968 to get the entire city to support us in stopping the highway. It was a full time job with weekly meetings. The first full public meeting was at St. Mary's on Norfolk St. Six hundred people were there. Frank McCann, one of our state representatives, got up and said, 'You can't beat City Hall; you can't stop the bulldozers. This is progress.' I got up and pointed my finger at him--I had never spoken in public in my life--and said, 'Not only can you fight City Hall, but you can win....'"

Asti Greene Benfield, 

activist represented in mural

Seeing and experiencing

What's going on in this mural? This is a neighborhood drama. Who are the different characters?

The "Inner Belt" was a proposed eight-lane highway that would have run right through the neighborhood of Cambridgeport. Local residents battled the highway for 20 years before winning the fight in 1970. Bernie LaCasse's mural commemorates this moment of triumph, celebrating the power of ordinary people to make a difference.

Notice the size of the various figures. How has the artist used scale to explain this event?

What moment in the story does LaCasse show? What is the mood of the protesters? Who has the power? How can you tell?

As you stand in front of this mural, think about your physical relationship to it. How does the artist include you, the viewer?

What colors has the artist used in the mural? Why do you think he chose them?


What you will need:
Paper, pencil or black marker.

Using pencil or marker, sketch the composition of the mural, paying close attention to the size of the figures in the piece relative to the bulldozer. Reverse the scale on another piece of paper, making the bulldozer large and the people small. How does this change the feeling of the piece?


What you will need:
Roll of paper, 8.5" x 11"pieces of paper, charcoal, pencil, paint, tape, scissors.

Muralists who choose a political event as their subject make many decisions as they communicate their ideas on a very large surface. In LaCasse's Beat the Belt, the size of the figures makes a statement about power and community.

Play with this idea of relative scale. Make a series of very large (larger than life) drawings of people. You can trace some friends' bodies on the large roll of paper. Cut out the figures and tape them on a wall. Now make similar drawings, but at a much smaller size (use the 8.5" x 11" paper). Put these drawings on the wall. Compare the impact of these two sets of images.

In depth

What you will need: 
Cardboard, a piece of wood or dowel, drawing or painting materials (pens, pencils, pastels, crayons, paints).

Can you think of other artworks that have been inspired by a political event? Look at the image Pablo Picasso'sGuernica. What is this work trying to say?


Start a collection of images that are political in nature. These can be from magazines, postcards, newspapers, etc. Now think of a situation in the world that you feel is unjust. This situation could be something affecting your friends, family, school, neighborhood, country or even the whole world. Create a sign or piece of art that expresses what you want to say.