If You Start With a High School Band, Norman Greenbaum Proves You Can Make It

By Sky Malbera Remember Spirit In the Sky, the rollicking rock hit from 1969 about spirituality?  Did you know the singer was a Malden-born-and-raised musician? Norman Greenbaum, an Orthodox Jew born in 1942, went on to create music but it was Spirit in the Sky that would reverberate through American culture. It was featured in almost fifty films, including Apollo 13 and the sequel to Wayne’s World and numerous television shows such as Law & Order and Big Love. Fun fact: the lyrics reportedly took all of fifteen minutes to write! Greenbaum was more than a one-hit wonder. He led in the charts with several other memorable tunes such as The Eggplant That Ate Chicago in 1966 and Canned Ham in 1970. A long-time resident of Santa Rosa, Calif., Greenbaum visited Malden on Oct. 16 2019, to cut the ribbon unveiling a mural on 110 Pleasant Street painted by Jesse Melanson to honor of the 50th anniversary of the famous song.  Fittingly, the mural envisions a hand raised up to the sky with rainbows and music notes flying, mirroring the streets of Malden blasting the hit with the universal themes incapsulated by […]


Perle Fine: Painting Through Barriers

By Sky Malerba In a world of male artists and curators, Boston born, Malden-raised Perle Fine never quite got the acclaim owed to her. An abstractionist and a constructor of collage, Fine was shaped by the avant-guard scene of the early to mid 20th century in New York City. Fine is the selection for Week Four of Malden Arts Mondays, a two-month long celebration of artists and figures who have lived in Malden. Fine’s career arguably picked up steam in May of 1943 when two of her paintings were entered into and featured in Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century museum. Two years later Fine would enjoy her first solo exhibition in 1945 at the Willard Gallery. Gradually, Fine integrated herself into artist communities where she socialized with other expressionists in clubs like the Betty Parsons Gallery, in 1948 — an atmosphere not unlike the enlightenment groups in 19th century French salons. She congregated with the likes of Clyfford Still Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and others. By the 1960s Perle Fine was a lecturer and associate professor and is cited as […]


Humble Words From an Abstract Artist: “What You See is What You See”

By Sky Malerba Malden Arts Mondays is a two-month long celebration of artists and figures who have been born in Malden. Week Three of Malden Art’s Monday features renown artist Frank Stella. A Malden native and New York resident, Frank Stella tricks and pleases the eye with his abstraction and minimalist work which stood out in the art scene of the ’50s and ’60s. As an accomplished painter, sculptor and printmaker, Stella left his mark on pieces both in two-dimensional works and in three-dimensional space. His work includes the set and costumes for Scramble, a dance piece by Merce Cunningham in 1967, and a series of pieces called Protractor, which play with the intersection of geometric shapes and interplaying colors. In 1966, in a much quoted remark, he said, “What you see is what you see.” Testing the boundaries of his understanding of shapes and mass, he delved more into sculpture starting with using canvases of irregular shapes, and then pasting free-standing metal pieces on them with paint. This experimentation would lead to increasingly more ambitious […]


His Parents Were Slaves, He Became a Leader: Herbert L. Jackson

By Sky Malerba Malden Arts launched “Malden Arts Mondays” earlier this month with a celebration of esteemed Malden natives. First up was illustrator, Ed Emberley, who was born in Malden in 1931. This week Malden Arts celebrates the first African-American state representative in Massachusetts, Herbert L. Jackson, with a suggested walking tour and other activities. A child of parents born into slavery, Jackson was the first African American ever elected to the Malden City Council. He was first elected as a councillor for Ward 7 from 1945 to 1947, and in Ward 5 from 1947 to 1951 and as a City Councillor-at-Large from 1965 to 1975. He served as president of the Malden City Council four times. He was elected as a state house representative, serving from 1950 to 1954. Herbert L Jackson was born in 1908 to John T. Jackson and Araminta Jefferson Jackson, who owned a tailoring business. Jackson was one of seven children and it seems as though his political career started in grade school. Always breaking barriers, he ran as class president […]


Ed Emberley is the first Malden artist celebrated for “Malden Arts Mondays”

By Sky Malerba “Anyone who likes my books are like me in some way.” –Ed Emberley Malden Arts kicked off a new program “Malden Arts Mondays” on July 8-9 with a celebration of the illustrator, Ed Emberley, who was born in Malden in 1931. Activities included a walking tour to see his childhood home and the local mural dedicated to his art, as well as a list of fun arts, reading and discussion activities. Known for writing and illustrating educational children’s books with  bright colors that awaken the senses and a rare type of charm accessible to both children and adults, 88-year-old Ed Emberley has delighted audiences for more than 50 years. Notable successes include his first book The Wing on a Flea, which educated children on shapes in a narrative format. It not only made the New York Times list of best illustrated books of 1961 but was an ALA Notable Book. Ed Emberley’s A.B.C, is a fine example of Emberley’s identity as an author and artist. It is an interactive book in which […]


Norman Greenbaum feels the Spirit in Malden

By Joe Bohrer Photos by Paul Hammersley On Oct. 16, the downtown Malden came alive with the sounds of rock ‘n’ roll when classic rocker and former Malden resident Norman Greenbaum returned home to participate in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the mural inspired by his famous “Spirit in the Sky” hit. Also on hand was Texas-born artist Jesse Melanson who had painted the four-story mural at 110 Pleasant Street, facing the Exchange Street side, to honor Greenbaum and his enduring song. A small but excited crowd gathered before the ceremony. When learning that “Spirit in the Sky” would be played,  a participant said, “I hope they blast it!” Another participant commented, “This is so nice” when asked about the mural. When Greenbaum walked in from across the street, he got stuck in the crowd because so many wanted to talk to him, shake his hand and get a picture with him. When the crowed finally let Greenbaum get to the front, a representative of Malden Arts ARTLine, which sponsored painting of the mural, gave a quick speech […]


The artist who brought the “Spirit in the Sky” mural to Malden

By Sharon Santillo Have you ever known a little kid who liked to draw all the time? Jesse Melanson, the designer and and painter of the new “Spirit in the Sky” mural in Malden, was one of those kids growing up in Maine in the 1990s. His journey from Maine to Malden took him from a friend’s car to California, on a bicycle to Central America, and to Austin with his lady love and her horse.  In early 2019, Melanson, an Austin, Texas-based artist,  answered the call to artists from Malden Arts ARTLine for public art proposals, especially proposals to honor well-know artists, writers, and musicians from Malden. A major fundraising campaign was held in 2018 and Patronicity and the community responded with enthusiasm. The first mural in 2018, located at Exchange Street at FitzGerald Park, honored Malden-born award-winning children’s illustrator, Ed Emberley. A playground for small children was recently added nearby. In August, Melanson, assisted by Megan Lacy, executed a four-story mural at the corner of Washington and Exchange Streets to honor Malden musician/composer Norman Greenbaum […]


Malden native still has that Spirit in the Sky

By Sharon Santillo Fifty years ago in 1969, a song was released that has become a quintessential guitar track for movies, TV, and advertising; it still receives radio play today.  “Spirit in the Sky” was composed and performed by Malden-born artist Norman Greenbaum, who is one of a handful of musicians who has made a lifetime of earnings from one song. Malden Arts ARTLine is planning a spectacular tribute to Greenbaum and “Spirit in the Sky” on this fifty-year anniversary with the painting of a mural to highlight the song on the back of 110 Pleasant Street, facing the Exchange Street side. Painting on the Spirit of the Sky mural has begun and will continue through August. A ribbon-cutting will be held at the site on Oct. 16  with Greenbaum as the honored guest. The Malden community is invited to enjoy the mural and welcome Greenbaum back to his hometown. Greenbaum was born at Malden Hospital on November 20, 1942, two months premature. “I couldn’t wait to get started on my career,” Greenbaum quipped in a recent interview with […]


A Tale of Two Sculptors on Malden’s ARTLine

By Sharon Santillo Malden’s ARTLine will get three new additions this month, when installations by Colin Selig and Joe Malesky, and a mural by Clay Larsen are officially unveiled on Thursday, June 20, at 5:30 p.m., opposite 195 Canal Street. The public is invited to see the art and meet the artists, who will all speak at the event. The two sculptors bring different visions to Malden, but both are devoted to the arts. “I am still a little kid,” sculptor Joe Malesky admitted in an interview. When he was growing up, kids played outside, made toys, fixed things, and had a lot of people around to help them. “We improvised,” he recalled. A Detroit native, Malesky spent part of his childhood in the Motor City; he also spent time on a farm in southern Illinois. Both city and country have influenced his sensibilities. The last 40 years of his life have been in Springfield, Missouri, first as a machinist in small fabrication shops, and now as a sculptor. Malesky works mainly with structural grade […]


Frank Stella: An iconic artist returns home

World-famous contemporary artist Frank Stella is a Malden native, but his work has never been part of the treasured art collection of the Malden Public Library. That is, until now. In an exemplary display of local generosity and a full-circle story of returning home, the library has now acquired three works by Stella. Those works were unveiled during a private reception on Sunday, Nov. 4, at the library. In attendance was Stella, who was visiting  his hometown  – and one of his favorite places of his childhood  – for the first time in many decades. One of his works had been purchased through the generosity of local patron John L. Giso and two were donated by the artist himself. “This is more than we could have hoped for,” said John Tramondozzi, President of the Library Board of Trustees and Chair of the Trustee’s Art Committee. “We have wanted to acquire a Frank Stella piece for years.” Stella is one of the foremost living artists in the world today. He is known for his innovative styles […]