community art

For three weekends this past month, dozens of artists were at work transforming three blocks of fencing located adjacent to the 125th Street Metro-North into a vibrant, intriguing outdoor gallery. While visiting last weekend, we had the opportunity to pose a few questions to its dynamic curator, Ayana Ayo.

This project is wonderful. We love the way it transforms the neighborhood, while bringing so many folks together to celebrate its renewal. How did you come to curate it?

I work with Carey King, the Executive Director of the Uptown Grand Central — a nonprofit dedicated to transforming East 125th Street and enriching life in East Harlem. I had earlier curated the 100 Gates Project in this neighborhood, and I loved the idea of bringing life to a space that has been vacant for the past ten years.

In addition to beautifying the neighborhood and uplifting its spirit, how would you define this project’s mission?

I was interested in giving an opportunity to artists — many who live uptown – to come together share their visions in a public space. Several of these artists have never painted outdoors before. Others have international reputations. All feel a strong connection to the neighborhood.

Over 50 artists have participated in this project. It’s an amazingly eclectic group. How did you connect with so many talented artists to see this project through?

I sent out a call to artistst describing the project’s mission of transforming “1,500 feet of green construction fencing into a vibrant gateway to Harlem.”  And I spoke to artists I know who, I thought, would be interested in participating in the project. The word got around!

What were some of the challenges you faced in seeing this project through?

Coordinating the schedules of over 50 artists; winning over the local people, so that they felt engaged with the project and having to turn down artists who wanted to participate.

How are you feeling now — that it’s just about complete in time forUptown Grand Central’s third annual street festival, Party on Park?

Over the moon! I am so happy.

What’s ahead?

More opportunities for Uptown Grand Central, as it continues its transformation of East Harlem!

So exciting! And congratulations on the Grand Scale Mural Project! 

Images

1  Ralph Serrano and Anjl at work

2  Curator Ayana Ayo. standing in front of mural by Dister

Anna Lustberg at work

Toofly

Alexis Duque with Shiro to his right

6  Funqest at work

Chris Ayala and Rob Ayala

Interview conducted by Lois Stavsky with Ana Candelaria and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits: 1, 2, 3 & 6 Ana Candelaria; 4, 5 & 7 Lois Stavsky

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Conceived and curated by Ad Hoc Art, the Welling Court Mural Project has been transforming Welling Court and its neighboring blocks in Astoria, Queens for the past decade. Featured above are the works of See One and Hellbent who once again shared their talents with us in this community-driven project. Several more images that Ana Candelaria and I captured this past Sunday follow:

 Roberto Castillo and Kork93

 Jeromy Velasco in memory of the Stonewall Riots’ 50th anniversary —  for NYC Pride with the LISA Project NYC

The legendary Greg Lamarche aka SP.ONE 

Queens-based Free5 captured at work

And an hour later

Never Satisfied

Joe Iurato pays homage to Keith Haring 

Welling Court Mural Project founder and curator Garrison Buxton for NYC Pride with the LISA Project NYC (close-up from huge mural) — and Yes One and more graffiti art below

Photo credits: 1, 4, 6, 9 & 10 Lois Stavsky; 2, 3, 5 & 7 Ana Candelaria 

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Underhill Walls — a  model grassroots project in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Prospect Heights —  has once again morphed. This time it is a canvas for 17 diversely enchanting murals reflecting the theme Urban Jungle. While visiting it last week, I had the opportunity to pose a few questions about Underhill Walls— its origins and more — to its indefatigable curator, Jeff Beler.

Underhill Walls continues to bring so much intrigue and beauty to this neighborhood. When did this project first begin?

The first set of murals surfaced here — at St. Johns Pl. and Underhill Avenue — back in the fall of 2015.

How were you able to access these walls? The concept is brilliant. It reminds me of the Centre-fuge Public Art Project that for years transformed an East Village eyesore — a neglected DOT trailer — into a rotating open-air street art gallery.

I live nearby, and I had been eyeing those walls for 10 years. They’d been ravaged by a fire, and they’d been neglected. I eventually contacted the owner of the three-floor abandoned building who was open to the concept of beautifying the property.

And then what? How did the actual transformation take place?

I started to put a team together. The first step was to build panels. And the first artists to participate in the project back in 2015 were: UR New York, Fumero, Badder Israel, Raquel Echanique, Col Wallnuts and Sienide.

Did you collaborate with any organizations at the time?

For our first project, we coordinated with the non-profit Love Heals. Titled “What’s Your Sign? Mural Project,” our first project’s mission was to raise public awareness for the HIV/AIDS crisis among  Black and Latino youth.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in seeing this project through these past few years?

Selecting artists with the right chemistry to work together. When that happens, everything flows smoothly and beautifully. And this is exasctly how “Urban Jungle” played out.

How often do the murals change?

Twice a year. Every May and October. Since 2015, we’ve had nine rotations.

What’s ahead?

So long as the panels are here, we will be here! And each project will continue to reflect a distinct theme.

Fabulous!

Images

1  Oscar Lett

2  Justin Winslow

Ralph Serrano (L) and Giannina Gutierrez (R) 

4  Jaima and Marco Santini collaboration

5  Nassart

6  Jeff Beler

7  Android and Miishab collaboration

8  Majo

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

Keep posted to StreetArtNYC Instagram for more recent images from Underhill Walls.

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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