Public Art Projects

Two brilliantly conceived and beautifully executed murals – one by Sonny Sundancer and the other by ASVP – surfaced last month on the exterior walls of IS 318 in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Sonny’s mural– at the corner of Lorimer Street and Throop Avenue – depicts a Yawanawa girl from Acre, Brazil, along with a jaguar, representative of a species that is sacred to the indigenous peoples and at risk of extinction. ASVP‘s black and white tower mural — painted on the opposite wall — features an elephant, bear, tiger and more, all interdependent and threatened or endangered in some capacity.

While visiting the school last week for the murals’ dedication and ribbon cutting, I had the opportunity to pose a few questions to Greenpoint Innovations founder Stephen Donofrio, who had organized the The Point NYC project.

These hugely impressive murals are one component of The Point NYC initiative. Just what is The Point NY?

It is a collaborative venture — among Comics Uniting Nations, Greenpoint Innovations, Hypokrit Theatre Company, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater and UNICEF — that brings together artists, producers, educators and local environmentalists for a series of artistic productions and events. Among these are: a comic book, public murals, a theatrical experience, open dialogue and an educational toolkit.

What is its ultimate mission?

Its mission is to respond to the human impact of climate change and to exercise the power we all have, particularly the youth, to take action for a better future.

And what inspired the direction that this project has taken?

It was inspired by a comic book story —Tre, by Sathviga ‘Sona’ Sridhar — about a climate change superhero. Sona had become passionate about climate change when her town in Chennai, India was flooded and when she heard about the Climate Comic Contest by UNICEF and Comics Uniting Nations, she decided to submit her art.

How did you connect with Sonny Sundancer and ASVP? Their murals are perfect for this project, as they are exquisite and brilliantly reflect environmental issues.

Karin du Maire introduced me to Sonny, and I met ASVP at the Moniker Art Fair in Greenpoint this past spring. Both Sonny and ASVP were ideal to work with, as they are not only wonderful artists, but caring people.

Were you presented with any particular challenges in seeing the project through?

Coordinating with the Department of Education was somewhat of a task. And then discovering that a segment of the wall that Sonny had completed had been coated to protect it from any lasting paint was another challenge. But – with considerable effort — we overcame them both!

How have the members of the local community responded to these two murals?

The response has been overwhelmingly positive. They love them.

And thank you for initiating this project!

Photo credits: 1 & 2 Lois Stavsky; 3 Karin du Maire aka Street Art Nomad; interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; 

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While visiting PS9’s STEAM Mural Project in Prospect Heights last month, I came upon a delightfully playful mural gracing the outside of the school building. STEAM Mural Project curator Jeff Beler told me a bit about the intriguing visionary artist behind it — Cuban native Myztico Campo. I was delighted to, soon afterwards, have the opportunity to interview the Brooklyn-based, self-taught shamanic artist.

When did you first begin to make art?

My earliest memory is of melting crayons on the radiator, so that I could watch the colors drip. When I was about five or six, I started to draw.

What inspired you at the time?

I used to watch my father draw caricatures. I was fascinated.

Are there any other early art-related memories that stand out?

Growing up in Hells Kitchen, I attended Catholic school for twelve years. When I was 7 years old, I drew an image of Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaurs eating nuns. My classmates loved it. But the nuns didn’t; they were horrified. They responded to it by slapping me across my knuckles.

How did your family respond to your early art-making?

Both my parents were encouraging. They loved what I did.

What about your particular visionary aesthetic? When and how did that evolve?

When I was sixteen, I started to explore psychedelics — such as mescaline and peyote — and I began to have visions. I started then to create art that reflected an alternate consciousness. I felt as though I was connecting to the Godhead of infinite love.

Are there any specific cultures that have inspired or influenced your visionary aesthetic?

Among those that have influenced me are indigenous cultures… aboriginal, prehistoric and African.

Are there artists out there who particularly inspire you? Who impact your visionary aesthetic — or whose aesthetic you relate to?

Yes! Among them are: Alex Grey, Amanda Sage, Olga Klimova, Android Jones and Juan Carlos Taminichi

What about other artists? Who are some of your favorite artists?

They include: the visionary artist and poet William Blake; the Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch; the Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali and the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.

Do you have a formal art education?

No. I never went to art school.

Your artwork can be amazingly detailed. Approximately how long does it take you to complete a piece?

Anywhere between 40-60 hours.

Are you generally satisfied with your final piece?

There is always room for improvement; I sometimes go back to a “finished” piece and tweak it.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

I’d say somewhere between 5-7 hours a day are devoted to visual art.

How has your art evolved through the years? 

Originally creating art was a hobby; I didn’t take it seriously. But as I grew, I began to see myself as a vessel for the art to express itself. And it became very important to me. I’ve, also,  expanded my range of media to include sculpture, 3-D art and digital art.

Have you shown your work in galleries?

Mostly in alternative venues. My work has been exhibited abroad in England, Spain, Peru, and here in the US in New Orleans and in New York.

You do quite a bit of live painting. What is that like?

I see it as sacred form of communication with the people who are around me.

I discovered your particular aesthetic while visiting the STEAM Mural Project  at PS 9 in Prospect Heights. When did you first paint in a public space?

The first public mural that I painted was in 2005 in East Yorkshire, England.

And since then?

Among the places I’ve painted outdoor murals are North Bergen, New Jersey and Tarapoto, Peru. And last year, I painted New York’s first black light street art at Underhill Walls here in Brooklyn.

What are some of your other interests?

I also produce films, direct music videos, compose and play music and write poetry.

That’s quite impressive! What do you see as the role of the artist in society?

To heal and to raise consciousness. I see myself as a conduit to a higher consciousness.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; photos of Myztico Campo‘s artwork — as seen in his Brooklyn studio/living space — and of his PS 9 mural by Lois Stavsky 

Directed by Myztico Campo, the featured video stars Dakota Day, co-founder and lead vocalist for the psychedelic soul band Brooklyn Bonez, performing Buddy Guy’s “Skin Deep.”

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An exuberant celebration of “invention, creativity, curiosity and hands-on learning,” the 9th Annual World Maker Faire New York took place this past weekend on the grounds of the New York Hall of Science in Flushing, Queens. Among this year’s exhibitors was Ad Hoc Art, presenting live truck painting, along with live T-shirt screen printing. While there, I had the opportunity to pose a few questions to Ad Hoc Art owner and co-founder Garrison Buxton (pictured below with Maker Faire director Sabrina Merlo).

What an extraordinary event this is! So much is going on here — from inventive exhibits to immersive workshops to interactive hands-on learning. Can you tell us something about Maker Faire? Its mission?

Among its missions is to celebrate creativity, while inspiring inquisitive dreamers to realize and share their dreams in any number of fields — be they art, science, technology…

How did you become engaged with Maker Faire? What spurred you to participate in this year’s festival?

Geoff Taylor — whose brother I had previously worked with — approached me about participating in this year’s World Maker Faire New York. And since I love its approach to the concepts of both community-engagement and collaborative art-making, we’re here!

These trucks look great, and the kids who come by are fascinated by them. Why did you choose to use trucks as the canvas for this live art-making project? 

I love their mobility, as so many people will have the opportunity to see them. And the art is likely to last.

How did you select which artists to include?

I wanted a balance of men and women, and they are all artists I’ve worked with in previous projects through Ad Hoc Art, including the Welling Court Mural Project.

How have folks responded to what you have brought to World Maker Faire New York?

The response has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic! And we’ve been awarded two blue ribbons from the festival’s organizers!

That’s great! I’m so looking forward to next year’s World Maker Faire New York!

Images:

  1. Gera Luz (standing) in collaboration with Werc
  2. Garrison Buxton with Sabrina Merlo
  3. Outer Source at work
  4. Jenna Morello
  5. Cern posing in front of huge segment of his truck mural
  6. Screen-printing by Peter J. McGouran

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; photos by Lois Stavsky

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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Featured above is a mural fashioned by the renowned Italian artist Pixel Pancho.  Several more images — all captured by travel and street photographer Karin du Maire aka Street Art Nomad — that surfaced at last month’s hugely popular Wide Open Walls Festival in Sacramento, California follow:

Hera of the German duo Herakut

Berlin-based, Argentine artist Guido Palmadessa

 Mexican native, LA-based Ilse Valfré

Brazilian artist Mateus Bailon , close-up

NYC-based Tom Bob

Organized by David Sobon and Branded Arts, the annual Wide Open Walls is the largest open air art festival in the USA. You can download a printiable mural map with exact locations here.

Photos by Karin du Maire

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Dedicated to promoting and celebrating public art, Wide Open Walls held its annual festival from August 9 – 19 in Sacramento, California. Local, national and international artists converged once again to transform the city into a tantalizing open air museum, featuring a wide range of diverse artworks. Organized by David Sobon and Branded Arts, it is the largest open air art festival in the USA. The mural pictured above — depicting Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison is the work of Shepard Fairey aka Obey — his largest mural ever in California. What follows are several more images — all captured by NYC-based travel and street photographer Karin du Maire aka Street Art Nomad.

LA-based Shepard Fairey aka Obey mural in progress

Shenyang, China native Lin Fei Fei

Local artist Michele Murtaugh at work

San Francisco-based Monty Guy at work

Portuguese artist Bordalo II

NYC-based Fench artist Hugo Kriegel 

Photos by Karin du Maire aka Street Art Nomad

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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The annual Jersey Fresh Jam, Trenton’s premier urban arts festival, was held last Saturday, August 11. Arts educator and photographer Rachel Fawn Alban was there to capture the action as local and regional artists converged — despite intermittent bouts of rain — to bring their talents to the walls of Terracycle INC. What emerged was a wonderful fusion of graffiti and mural art representing a range of sensibilities, styles and themes. Pictured above — from left to right — are Damien Mitchell, Puppet Master Icky and Colombian artist Joems. Several more photos captured by Rachel follow:

Damien Mitchell at work

SoulsNYC with spray can and cell phone in hand

Meres at work with Mek on top

Kes1 at work — in collaboration with Seoz

Ras at work

Ron with multiple spray cans in hand

Photos by Rachel Fawn Alban

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to meet up with Poornima Sukumar. A muralist and community artist based in India, she is the founder and director of  the Aravani Art Project, a collective that creates spaces for people from the transgender community to connect with other communities and cultures in their local neighborhoods. In July 2016, Poornima was invited to present the Aravani Art Project at the Global Youth Forum, and she was hosted by the World Bank as a panellist for the LGBTQIA+ discussion in Washington DC. She is also a TEDx speaker.

What is the mission of the Aravani Art Project? Can you tell us a bit about it?

It aims to create a collective space for people from the transgender community by engaging them in public art and other interventions. We are interested in providing opportunities for members of the transgender community to collaborate with artists, photographers, filmmakers and general members of society to voice issues and engage in dialogues. We want to help society see people from the transgender community in a new light. We also make an effort to become invested in their personal lives. We look out for them just as we would look out for our own friends. The projects are completely built on trust and friendship, and friends always look out for each other! We are intent, in fact, on providing members of the transgender community with access to health care, as well as the skills they need to procure jobs.

When was it started? And why?

It began in January, 2016. After 3 ½ years of working on a film about the transgender community in India and making close friends among members of that community, I wanted to remain involved.  I was concerned about the violence and the prejudice that so many of them encounter. I felt the need to bridge the gap between  members of the their community and society, at large.

Who are some of the other folks who have worked with you in implementing your mission?

Among them are: Sadhna Prasad, who serves as the project’s art director; trans leaders Shanthi Sonu and Priyanka Divaakar and trans artists Chandri and Purushi.

About how many people has the Aravani Art Project engaged so far?

Since the project began in 2016, we’ve engaged over 1,000 folks in 25 projects.

How have you made these opportunities for collaboration and exchange happen? That’s quite an impressive number of projects.

As a muralist and illustrator, I know many artists. We’ve also received commisions. This past year, Facebook, in fact, invited us to their office in San Francisco.

How has the general community responded to the Aravani Art Project?

Very beautifully – folks open up to us slowly, and, organically, folks want to connect.

And what about the name Aravani? What is its significance?

The term Aravani means a person who worships Lord Aravan, the patron God of the transgenders.

What’s ahead?

We are looking to forge more collaborations internationally and reach out to more communities whose voices remain unheard. We are planning two projects abroad and five in India. We are always seeking visibility.

How can folks become engaged in your projects?

We are eager to engage all folks — straight, gay, transgender — in implementing our projects. And if you are interested in becoming involved, you can write to us here.

That sounds great! And we look forward to seeing you back in NYC with the Aravani Art Project!

Interview by Lois Stavsky with Bonnie Astor; all photos courtesy the Aravani Art Project

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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This is the 14th in a series of occasional posts featuring the range of faces that have surfaced in NYC open spaces. The image featured above was painted by Fumero in Astoria, Queens for the Welling Court Mural Project, curated by Ad Hoc Art. Several more follow:

Danielle Mastrion  for Underhill Walls in Prospect Heights, curated by Jeff Beler

Nile Onyx for Underhill Walls in Prospect Heights, curated by Jeff Beler

Indie 184 on the Ridge Wall on the Lower East Side, curated by 212 Arts

Funqest for Underhill Walls in Prospect Heights, curated by Jeff Beler

Albertus Joseph for Underhill Walls in Prospect Heights, curated by Jeff Beler

Anthony Lister with the L.I.S.A Project NYC in Lower Manhattan

Photo credits: 1 Karin du Maire aka Street Art Nomad;  2 -7 Lois Stavsky

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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The following guest post is by Houda Lazrak

Earlier this year on a frisky afternoon, I met up with Noémi Nádudvari at a lively café in the 7th district of Budapest. A Budapest native and street art lover, Noémi, with the help of several like-minded individuals now known as the Colorful City Group, founded the Színes Város Festival (Color City Festival), the premiere large-scale public wall painting project in the country. Inspired by Hungarian painter Victor Vasarely’s vision that colors should play a vital role in city planning to make the world a more livable place, Noémi and her team have added over 70 murals to the facades of the Budapest City Center. I asked her a few questions about this project before she took me on a walking tour of the neighborhood.

It is a pleasure to meet you, Noémi. If I understand correctly, you work here at Café Dobrumba?

I do! I am the manager of Café Dobrumba. My team and I collaborate to create a rotating menu inspired from our travels abroad. Sadly, these are my last few weeks working here. I will be focusing my time and energy on the Színes Város Festival. It is impossible to have a full time job and, also, curate an expanding street art festival!

Yes, the Color City Festival! Tell us about this great initiative and how it all started.

The start of the festival was in 2014 with myself, my collaborator, Peter, and a super small group of people who were on board with the idea of creating an arts and culture initiative with murals by street artists at its center. We are now in our fifth edition. It is a little hard to believe sometimes. If six years ago someone had told me that I would be the curator of a city-wide street art festival, I would have laughed in their face! Today we produce around 8-10 murals each year, trying to find new wall spaces every cycle.

It sounds like you’ve come a long way. Was this festival your first experience curating? 

It was my first time curating a large-scale event. I studied aesthetics, philosophy of art and Latin in college, and then I worked in contemporary art galleries, auction houses, and was involved in the organization of festivals promoting young designers in Budapest. In 2011, I organized Urban Tactics, a one-day live painting event. It was the first-ever legal live painting in a public space in Hungary. We set up a series of panels on the street and presented an exhibition of work by six graffiti artists. That was my first real curating experience. At the time, we were struggling with money and permissions and did not think that something bigger would be possible.

Can you elaborate on the particular model of the festival in regards to the rotating themes and sponsors?

Because street art is so new in Hungary, we decided to collaborate with the city council and government to launch the project, along with sponsors who are keen on increasing the appreciation of street art in Budapest. Each year, we invite a sponsor to select a theme for the festival. It forces us to work within a certain framework. I then create a brief and reach out to local and international artists who may be interested in producing work around the topic. The mural painting then happens.

Can you tell us a bit about the topics that have been the focus of the festival?

In 2014, the topic was Let’s Start to Talk; in 2015, Hungaricum — a phenomenon that is unique to Hungary and represents great value for Hungarians; in 2016, Water and City / River and the City, focused on the Danube River which separates the city into the Buda and Pest sides; and in 2017, the theme was The Gastronomy of Art – The Art of Gastronomy.

Where are the murals located?

Mostly around here, the 7th District, but we started to do some walls in the Buda side of the city as well. Ruben Sanchez finished a piece there this past winter. The challenge on the Buda side is that we have to create murals that are more classical — in the vein of a 19th century-style aesthetic — to fit the context of traditional Hungarian architecture.

How have neighborhood residents reacted to the festival?

Good, actually. At first, there was some suspicion. But now, a few years later, we get more favorable reactions. Older generations have actually embraced it the most. They come with their grandkids to watch the artists paint, and a few have told us “We’d love to have this everywhere.”

What — would you say — were, or are, your biggest challenges?

Putting the festival together is pretty challenging, but as a curator/organizer, I would say the most difficult part is obtaining painting permissions. The city of Budapest does not easily give them. It’s a long process. We have to ask five different entities for permission before we can even begin painting.

It’s also difficult to find available walls. We’ve come up with a couple of strategies. The first is that we offer to renovate the building façade. It improves the state of the building and benefits the residents. Residents are then a lot more willing to give permission for a mural. As you can imagine, though, it then becomes very expensive for us. The second strategy is finding walls in parking lots. Since the walls are not immediately on the street, the permissions are easier to get. But, this means the mural will be erased when the parking lots are transformed into real estate developments. It could happen after one year or a few years, but in the meantime, the murals are there. Sadly, construction has started in a parking lot where we have some of our favorite walls by two members of Berlin’s The Weird Crew, HRVB and Vidam, who is half Hungarian.

The other challenge is dealing with sponsors who wanted to control the art aspect of the festival. I always insist that we need artistic freedom as soon as we start working with a sponsor. Each year this gets easier as sponsors develop a better understanding of street art and the goal of Színes Város.

How has the festival evolved?

Better artists, better walls. And more artists from abroad. Foreign artists love Budapest! Which is great because we really need a new image of the city… We want to invite international artists to show more street art styles to Hungarian audiences, as well. We were very happy to have artists like Adno, Dan Ferrer, SPOK ÉS KORSE, BreakOne, Ruben Sanchez and others painting walls in Budapest.

What is your main goal with Színes Város ?

At first, the goal was to expose Hungarians to street art and get them to understand what it is; I wanted to educate the public about this art form. Now that this goal has somewhat been met and people are starting to appreciate art that is less mainstream, I am trying to push the limit and include more adventurous, interesting, challenging pieces every year.

I always say in the press conferences that one of the main goals of the festival is to show the great variety of styles that exist. People should be more open and even excited about styles that are new to then, because there isn’t one common taste. No one has to like all the murals. but everyone will have their favourites. For me that’s an important message. You don’t have to love all of them, but try to understand them; try to speak about them; explain why you like a mural or not. Diversity is so important. It is even more important nowadays when the world is moving in a direction that doesn’t encourage inclusiveness…Trump being a prime example of that.

Do you feature other types of installations besides murals?

Not at the moment. There was a boom in the early 2000 of small street art pieces. Artists were trying to do small works. But there were too many risks involved because, unfortunately, you could go to prison if you get caught just doing a paste up. Graffiti and street artists mostly tried to paint outside the city, finding hidden lonely places where they can work easily without anyone bothering them. So that is why we are missing small pieces in the city. In cities like Berlin and London, you feel like something more is going on aside from the murals – you get that feeling because of the paste ups, stickers, stencils etc. That is a project for the future, focusing on smaller works as well.

Any other future projects or plans?

For the festival’s fifth year, I want to publish a catalog with images of all the walls. Maybe an exhibition, as well. In the longer term, I want to start an artist exchange program to allow Hungarian artists to go abroad, gain recognition in the international scene and collaborate with other artists. Fat Heat paints everywhere in Europe and Russia, which is great, but I would like to see more Hungarian artists represented around the world.

Sounds exciting! We wish you the best for what’s next!

Images

1 Lisbon-based AkaCorleone

2 Budapest-based Márton Hegedűs

3 Spanish artist Dan Ferrer

4 Portuguese artist BreakOne

5  Russian artist Adno (right) and collaborative mural by Spain’s Spok Brillor  and French artist KORSE 

6 Vidam (left) and  HRVB

7 Hungarian artist Péter Szabó-Lencz aka Petyka

8 Budapest-based TransOne and Fat Heat

All photos and interview by Houda Lazrak

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Since 2005, Festival Asalto –the oldest international festival of urban art in Spain — has been bringing a diverse range of alluring public art to Zaragoza, while actively engaging the community in all aspects of realizing its vision. While visiting Zaragoza last month — with map in hand — we roamed the city in search of public artworks. Pictured above is a close-up from a hugely impressive mural by Spanish artists Aryz and Daniel Munoz aka San. Several more images  — a small representation of what we encountered — follow:

French artist Zepha

Madrid-based Sabek

Madrid-based Okuda

Belgian artist Roa

UK-based Helen Bur

Copenhagen-based Isaac Malakkai with Canary Islands-based artists Felo CNFSN and Tono

France-based Mantra

Photos 1-6 & 8 Lois Stavsky; 7 Sara C Mozeson

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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