Andrea Morris, Visual Communications Manager here at WGBH, has been programming our digital mural for the past six years. You may have even seen it on your commute: our digital mural is the huge 30- by 45-foot screen that overlooks the Massachusetts Turnpike and entertains Bostonians as they make their way in and out of the city each day. Morris carefully curates the visuals that appear on the screen, changing them up every single day of the year to reflect program highlights at WGBH, major news events, seasons, holidays and other timely occurrences throughout the region and country. We sat down with Morris to learn more about the important work she does to engage with our community on the big screen.
The curated mural at WGBH’s headquarters in Boston’s Brighton neighborhood remains on from 6:30am to 8pm, after which it switches over to an image of a starry night sky until the following day, when the schedule repeats with new visuals. Morris curates the pictures or animations found on the screen. She also writes a short description about each one, which is posted on the digital mural blog. She gives each mural post an individual, witty name, like a recent post about Julia Louis-Dreyfus, which she called “Funny Girl,” and another about theOrphée et Eurydice, which she called “To Hell and Back.” If she finds that a title has been repeated, she’s actually gone back and changed them after-the-fact. “I’ve written six years’ worth of everyday things, and most of them are lost to time, which is fine because then I can recycle them,” Morris said.
One mural that Morris fondly remembers is this animated one where “WGBH” is spelled out in Morse code. This specific animation commerates the invention of this important means of communication. Typically, the mural highlights programs and projects at WGBH, including upcoming TV shows, visiting artists, newsmaker interviews, and more. Sometimes, she works with the City of Boston to promote citywide events, like One Boston Day on April 15th to honor Boston's resilience and strength in response to the Marathon bombing. Occasionally, an opportunity arises when she can have a little fun and craft visuals like the one below, to promote Boston's HarborFest.
This depiction of the letters “WGBH” in semaphore is a unique post that embodies Morris’ phrase, “the pictures will tell you what they want you to do.” Morris uses a lot of different techniques to bring life to the visuals on the mural. Many involve some sort of movement—slow, of course, so as not to distract highway drivers—like crossfades into multiple different photos or an animation. There are some rules prohibiting prominent text or logos (apart from our own) on the mural, so the challenge is to convey a message or point with little context, as creatively as possible.
The murals that Morris hold near and dear to her heart, however, are the more serious ones. Like many news outlets, Morris noted that, “We have obituary pictures ready for very famous people and local politicians.” These photos can go up at a moment’s notice. Morris works with other stakeholders around the building, including our Communications and Marketing team, on final approval for every post. “I remember when Nelson Mandela died, I felt really strongly about having him up there, and they agreed to that,” she said.
Morris had planned a mural featuring Antiques Roadshow for the Monday after Super Bowl LIII, but in light of the New England Patriots’ sixth win (Go Pats!), she came in early at 6am that morning and changed the display to feature the Vince Lombardi Trophy with a post she titled “So Much Winning.” The mural cannot be controlled remotely for security reasons , so Morris has to make any changes needed manually, and in-person. Despite these occasional spur-of-the-moment changes, Morris plans the murals a couple of months in advance, posting one and then moving immediately onto the next, always looking ahead.
You can see Morris’ murals in person every day above our headquarters on the Mass Pike, or right here on the digital mural blog, which Morris updates daily. Make sure to follow #WGBHMural on Twitter for additional updates. And, if you want to see it in person and learn more about WGBH, you can also take a tour.