Labor of Love: McKenna’s Painting Honors Revere Firefighters’ Service

Revere artist Bobby McKenna, known for his distinctive artwork on local electrical boxes, brought his amazing talents to Revere City Hall Monday.

The occasion was McKenna’s presentation of his seven-year art project, entitled “Central Fire Station 1912” to the city.

McKenna’s art piece, which is located on the first floor of the building, is a highly detailed drawing of an old photograph of the old Central Fire Station that appeared in the book, “Revere: Images of America.”

“I was experimenting with that style of drawing and I thought this would be the ultimate challenge to see if I could pull it off and make it look photo-realistic,” related McKenna. “The style is illustration and cross-hatching – it’s meant to look like old Sears catalogues from 100 years ago – back then they did all the detail with tiny pen strokes.”

 McKenna said he was presenting the artwork to the city as a show of gratitude to Revere firefighters for their heroic service of protecting residents during emergencies and assisting in other lifesaving situations at a moment’s notice.

 Mayor Brian Arrigo moderated the brief, speaking program during the presentation ceremony that was also attended by Mc-

Kenna’s parents, his aunt, Ward 1 City Councilor Joanne McKenna, Revere Fire Chief Christopher Bright, Deputy Chief Glen Rich, Capt. Robert Fortuna, and Lt. Kevin O’Hara.

Noting the many individual pen strokes that it took to create the painting, Arrigo said,“I am so proud to be able to have this beautiful, beautiful painting here at City Hall and we look forward to displaying this at the new fire station in Point of Pines when that’s done. This painting will be the centerpiece for that location. We’re tremendously proud and appreciative of the tremendous work by Bobby.”

Joanne McKenna also offered praise, stating, “I’m very proud of my nephew. He’s been working on this for seven years now. I think it took a half a million pen strokes. I saw his work during the process – beginning, middle, and end – and I’ve just seen the final work and it’s just tremendous.”

Chief Bright said he learned of McKenna’s artwork-in-progress a few years ago “and now that I’ve seen it person, I’m blown away by the work Bobby did here and the amount of labor that he put in. It’s a real labor of love for the Fire Department and we’re touched by this and we’re very grateful for this.”

Inspiration Began While he was in the Marine Corps

What was Bobby McKenna’s inspiration for such a public and wonderfully artistic show of gratitude to Revere’s bravest?

McKenna said it dates back to his nine-year career in the U.S. Marine Corps when he was asked to paint a mural.

“I discovered that I had knack for making art to say ‘thank you’ to those who most deserved it,” recalled McKenna, 47, and a 1991 graduate of Revere High School. “Veterans, police officers, firefighters deserve our gratitude for their heroic service every day. It took a long time to make this painting, but I think it’s nothing compared to the debt we have to repay, so I’m hoping that the painting will be a reminder to people about the city and the pride we have in our firefighters.”

Project Was Launched Eight Years Ago

McKenna began his art project in 2013. “I started working on it then and I have been working on it continuously ever since – I worked on it a little here and a little there when I felt like I was in the mood, because it’s very intricate and painstaking work. But I had some extra free time during the COVID-19 pandemic and I finally finished it,” said McKenna.

McKenna said upon completion of his artwork, he talked with Mayor Arrigo about a place to display his painting and dedicate it to the city’s firefighters. On Monday, Mayor Arrigo and Bobby McKenna proudly stood side by side in front of the painting in a perfect, highly visible location at City Hall just a block from the Central Fire Station.

The humble artist placed a small plaque beneath the painting that reads: To The Revere Fire Department – Presented With Gratitude By The Artist Bobby McKenna, Reverent Works.”

Though there have been offers to purchase a replica of his painting, McKenna said he has not advanced on those requests at this point.

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