Anna Dugan ’13 Commissioned to Paint ‘Celebration of Belonging’ Mural at Boston Venue

A woman in a black sweatshirt and jeans poses for a photo in front of a mural. Image by Danny Dugan
The "Celebration of Belonging" mural by art & design alumna Anna Dugan '13 now greets guests when they enter TD Garden in Boston. Dugan was named the inaugural TD Garden House Artist.

By Ed Brennen

Anna Dugan ’13 must have read the email a dozen times.
“Is this a scam?” the art & design alumna thought. “There's no way.”
But it was legit: She had been selected as the inaugural TD Garden House Artist and was receiving a $10,000 commission to paint a mural inside the main Causeway Street entrance of the Boston arena, where countless sports fans and concertgoers would see her work for years to come.
“It’s such a humbling honor,” says Dugan, whose recently completed “Celebration of Belonging” mural is the first installment of a program that commissions local artists from underrepresented communities “to create transformative art in and around the arena.” The program is part of TD Bank’s $15 million “Access the Arts” initiative.
Dugan, a Filipino American, lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband, music alum Danny Dugan ’14. She applied for the program last August with little expectation of being chosen — despite her impressive portfolio of murals and public art.
“I applied more as a way to combat impostor syndrome, which is something that can really consume you as a creative if you let it,” she says. “I try to actively tell myself that I deserve to be in these spaces and to get recognized.”
A woman paints a mural that has people painted in bright colors. Image by Danny Dugan
Anna Dugan '13 spent three weeks painting her TD Garden mural, which includes a mix of Celtics and Bruins legends, performing artists, fans and arena staff members.
Dugan was visiting family and painting a mural in the Philippines, on a trip partially funded by a grant from the New England Foundation of Art, when she got the email last November.
“It’s been such a dream since then — pinch-me moment after pinch-me moment,” she says.
Dugan spent three weeks painting the mural, which covers two 300-square-foot walls on either side of the main entrance. She arrived on the commuter rail by 7 a.m. each morning and cleared out by 3 p.m., before arena doors opened for events.
Other than being given the theme of “Our Home,” Dugan said TD Garden officials were “so wonderful about trusting my vision, my perspective and my style,” which she describes as modern folk art.
There are several familiar faces on her vibrant mural: Larry Bird and Jayson Tatum of the Celtics; Johnny Bucyk and Brad Marchand of the Bruins; musicians such as the Beatles, Elton John and SZA. But just as prominent are the faces of actual fans and arena staff members.
“It's great to have the legends up there, but I wanted to include all the elements that make TD Garden feel like home, which includes the fans, the ushers, the food attendants,” says Dugan, who photographed several of those people at arena events to reference for the mural.
A closeup of a paint brush painting an orange face on a while. Image by Anna Dugan
Anna Dugan '13, who began painting murals during the COVID-19 pandemic, describes her style as modern folk art.
“We come to these events, and they connect generations through time and space,” says Dugan, whose earliest TD Garden memories are going to Celtics games with friends from her hometown of Methuen, Massachusetts. “That’s such a powerful thing, and I really wanted to capture that.”
TD Garden President Glen Thornborough says she did just that. 
“Anna Dugan's work embodies the inclusive and joyful spirit that TD Garden aims to cultivate,” Thornborough said in a press release. “Her bold use of color, compelling storytelling and unique perspective truly transforms the arena's entrance, enhancing the sense of community and belonging we strive to foster.”
Dugan finds it funny that she uses bold, bright colors, considering she was “afraid” to work in color while pursuing her B.F.A. from UMass Lowell.
“I thought I would ruin my work if I started doing color over it, because I always loved patterns and line work,” she says. “Once I threw that out the window, my whole world exploded in the best way. I don’t think my college self would recognize me now. I’ve grown so much as a person and also as an artist.”
Dugan tried several jobs outside of the art world after earning her degree, but always found herself coming back to art in her spare time. 
“I was always fiddling with something — drawing, photography, painting on bottles. My friends were like, ‘She’s doing a thing, but I don’t know how to explain it,’” says Dugan, who now signs her murals with the handle @annadidathing.
A woman in a black shirt poses with a sign in front of a mural. Image by Danny Dugan
TD Garden will formally unveil the mural by house artist Anna Dugan '13 later this month.
After a chalk art period, which she showcased at Dugan Hall in 2019, Dugan transitioned to painting murals in 2020 — just as the COVID-19 pandemic was taking hold and Jersey barriers were going up for outdoor dining at restaurants.
“They looked so militant — very gloomy and industrial,” says Dugan, who painted bright and cheerful designs on more than 100 of the barriers in Salem and neighboring towns on the North Shore.
While Dugan is used to her work being seen by the public, the TD Garden mural “cranks it up to 11,” she says. She has been overwhelmed by the positive response so far.
“It underscores how much the space means to so many people,” says Dugan, who anticipates a “bump” in work after being named the first TD Garden House Artist — a one-year title that entails just the one project.
“A cool thing that’s happened since going full-time as a muralist is that my list of projects gets smaller each year, but the project scope gets bigger,” she says. “I’ve been able to find my lane in large-scale projects.”
As she looks toward the future, she is savoring the present.
“I am living through what could potentially be the absolute highlight of my career, and being cognizant of that is wild,” she says. “I'm very happy, and so dang proud of myself.”