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Sign of the Times

Sign of the TimesFor Tricia O'Neill, a graduate from Tufts' dual degree program with the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and acclaimed sign artist, education never really stops.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [03.19.07] Look around Fenway Park, the home of the Boston Red Sox, and you're likely to see Tricia O'Neill's work-a Red Sox logo on the right field wall, a Gulf logo on the third base wall, even larger images on the legendary "Green Monster" left field wall, and the list goes on. For the 2006 Tufts graduate, an expert in hand lettering and sign painting, these accomplishments are as thrilling as a grand slam.

"The Red Sox came looking for me, what's better than that?" said the 45-year-old O'Neill, who graduated at the end of the fall semester from Tufts' dual-degree program with the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. How did she get to a point where one of Boston's most revered establishments came calling? An education from Tufts certainly helped, but O'Neill was painting long before she came to the Hill.

Born in nearby Arlington, Mass., to Irish immigrants, Tricia first studied hand lettering and received a certificate in sign painting from Boston's Butera School of Art in what she calls a "first round of college." She moved to Dublin not long after graduating, where she started her company, Signs Unique, in 1985. Just a few years later, she returned stateside and moved back to Arlington.

"The inspiration for starting my own company was purely fueled by the need for independence, accountability and freedom," said O'Neill.

But her drive extends beyond her business; O'Neill is the first person in her family to graduate from college. She says that her parents "always encouraged me to get an education, but [my father] didn't know how to help point me in the right direction."

She studied a little bit of everything while at Tufts and the SMFA, concentrating on photography and art history, as well as some philosophy and psychology. The experience, she said, has "given me confidence and a self-assuredness dealing with clients and in my work in general."

It was this education that helped her to "realize...that I had already achieved a great deal by making a living doing something that involved creativity." Indeed, her work is some of the most well-known in the city of Boston, whether you recognize her name or not.

In addition to logos and hand lettering at Fenway, Tricia painted a famous mural in South Boston for the local band Dropkick Murphys, which can be seen on the cover of their 2001 album Sing Loud, Sing Proud. Her work can also be seen at the Red Sox spring training facilities at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers, Fla., including the championship banners she painted above the batting cages this past February.

While she has found success in her field, O'Neill cares about more than just recognition. A self-described "continuing education junkie," O'Neill plans to spend more time studying how media can impact society -inspired in large part by a course she took at Tufts, "Producing Films for Social Change."

While no one knows how well the Red Sox will do this year, one certainty is O'Neill's commitment to keep painting and inspiring people with her work. In large part, she says she owes a debt of gratitude to Tufts, because her education helped open doors she once felt were closed to her.

"The possibilities that seemed somehow to be for others now feel as if they are available to me, too."

-- Will Ehrenfeld A'10

Photos courtesy of Tricia O'Neill

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