Joel Artista

Today, Saturday, June 9th, marks the ninth anniversary of the extraordinary community-driven Welling Court Mural Project, conceived and curated  by Ad Hoc Art. While visiting yesterday, travel and street photographer Karin du Maire aka Street Art Nomad captured several artists at work, as well as a few completed murals. Pictured above is the wonderfully talented Queen Andrea at work. Several more images follow:

John “Crash”  Matos — posing in front of his mural, based on a painting of his from 1980


Joel Artista and Marc Evan at work on collaborative wall with Chris Soria

Netherlands-based Michel Velt at work

Cey Adams

KingBee at work

Peat Wollaeger aka Eyez

Herb Smith aka Veng, RWK, alongside his mural

Celebrate the launch of this model community-based mural project from 12pm – 8pm today at 11-98 Welling Court in Astoria, Queens. Check here for directions.

Photos by Karin du Maire


Launched by artists and arts educators Max Frieder and Joel Bergner aka Joel Artista, Artolution is a community-based public art initiative with the goal of promoting healing and positive social change through collaborative art making. For two weeks last month, Artolution directors, Max Frieder and Joe Artista — along with members of the local community — worked with LGBTQ+ students from NYC’s Harvey Milk High School and with students facing such challenges as autism and down symdrome from the Manhattan School of Career Development. The results are remarkable!

Planning session in progress

Young artists at work

Discarded objects become not only an art installation, but musicial instruments, as well

Segment of final mural

Completed mural

A cause for celebration

The mural can be seen on 5th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues in the East Village.

Photos by Tara Murray

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 twelfth in a series of posts featuring the range of faces have surfaced in NYC open spaces:

Werc in Bedford-Stuyvesant with the Open Society Foundations


Vexta and Askew in Williamsburg for the Greenest Point, one fragment of huge mural


Joel Bergner aka Joel Artista in Bellerose, Queens with the DOT


LMNOPI in Long Island City with Arts Org


Cern in Williamsburg, close-up


Thiago Valdi in Staten Island with the NYC Arts Cypher


Leticia Mandragora, Bushwick 


 Photo credits: 1, 3 & 7 Tara Murray: 2, 4-6 Lois Stavsky

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

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Engaging a wide range of artists and art lovers of all ages, along with members of the local community, the Welling Court Mural Project celebrated its 7th anniversary with a huge block party on Saturday. Pictured above is the legendary Lady Pink at work. Here are several more images captured from the Welling Court Mural Project‘s annual event organized by Garrison & Alison Buxton.

Caleb Neelon at work on collaborative mural with Katie Yamasaki


Fumero at work on tribute mural to Muhammed Ali


Mike Makatron and Caroline Caldwell aka Dirt Workship at work on a collaborative mural

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Cre8tive YouTH*ink, close-up of huge mural painted by youth under the direction of  Jerry Otero aka Mista Oh




Chris Cardinale at work


Joel Artista at work on collaborative mural with Chris Soria and Marc Evan


Pyramid Guy


Joseph Meloy, Ellis G and Abe Lincoln, Jr

Meloy-ellis-G-andAbe-Lincoln, Jr

Photos by Tara Murray

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

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Writing onthe Walls is an ongoing project launched last year by N Carlos J – noted artist, community revitalizer and founder of Brooklyn Is the Future — for his father, a Brownsville native who had been diagnosed with cancer. This is Part II of our continuing documentation of it:

Danish artist Welin


Brooklyn-based Ben Angotti


French artist Zeso, close-up

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Chilean artist Teo Doro


Long Island-based Phetus


And you can find out here how you can help support this wonderfully transformative project.

Note: The first image is by Joel Bergner aka Joel Artista.

Photo credits: 1, 2, 4-6 Tara Murray; 3 Lois Stavsky


This is the tenth in an occasional series of posts featuring the range of faces in different media that have surfaced in NYC public spaces:

New Zealand-based Owen Dippie in Bushwick, Brooklyn


UK-based multimedia artist Ryan Gander on the High Line


Alice Mizrachi, captured at work this past June in the East Village


How & Nosm and Tristan Eaton in Williamsburg, Brooklyn


German artist Hendrik Beikirch aka ECB in Bushwick, Brooklyn


Bogota-based Australian artist Crisp in Brooklyn


Chris Soria and Joel Bergner aka Joel Artista in Bushwick, Brooklyn


Hong Kong-based Caratoes in Bushwick, Brooklyn


Photo credits: 1, 4 & 5 Lois Stavsky; 2 & 8 Dani Reyes Mozeson; 3, 6 & 7 Tara Murray



We recently spoke to Brooklyn-based artist Joel Bergner aka Joel Artista about his experiences this past spring working with Israeli and Palestinian youth.

What brought you to the Israel?

I ‘d worked with artist and arts educator Max Frieder last year in the Middle East in a program for Syrian refugees and, also, in Cuba. He invited me to partner with him on this trip — organized by his Artolution project with the support of private donors and the U.S. Embassy and Consulate — to Israel and Palestine.

What was the purpose of the trip?

The main purpose was to provide creative opportunities for Israeli and Palestinian youth, who rarely interact, to meet each other through our educational workshops and collaborate on public mural projects. Through this work, they formed relationships with each other and were able to begin positive dialogues. 


Was your experience in this particular conflict-ridden landscape different from what you had anticipated? 

I had thought of the divide in this region as largely an Israeli-Palestinian one. But I came to realize that the situation is far more complex. There is a considerable divide between the religious and secular and divisions within certain communities themselves. I also wasn’t aware of the situation of the East Jerusalem Palestinians who do not have Israeli citizenship; in fact, they don’t have citizenship to any country in the world! Most can get Jordanian passports even though they are not Jordanian citizens, and it is these passports they use when they travel abroad. We worked with a Palestinian friend who was in this difficult and complex situation, and he brought us all around the West Bank and taught us a great deal. He was an inspiring guy for me because of his positive and tolerant perspective toward all the people of the region.

Did you feel personally affected by the conflict?

I was there on Jerusalem Day, when the Israelis — particularly those on the right — celebrate the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the Old City. That was a particularly tense day, as there were protests and a highly charged and violent atmosphere in the area between the east and west sections of the city.


What — would you say — was you greatest challenge? 

Getting the Israeli and Arab kids to interact with one another in a meaningful way and actually work together.

Were you able to overcome this challenge?

Yes. Most came to value the idea of working together for a common purpose. One of the groups came up with the image of a boat floating on a sea. Out of the boat grew a tree with branches that became human figures. They wanted to send a message that despite differences, they all have the same roots, and that they are all on the same boat together.

Mural-by Israeli-and-Palestinian-youth

In what ways was your experience in Israel different from other countries where you’ve worked with youth?

I’ve worked in many countries with youth from very difficult environments, including those who have experienced war and other forms of violence, but this was my first time purposefully bringing together two sides of a conflict in order to spark dialogue. These are young people who are taught to fear and hate the other side. But many told me individually that once they came face to face with each other and worked together, joked around and had conversations, it became impossible to see the other as an enemy. They realized that they had so much in common. It was incredible to see them bonding and becoming friends. One day we all broke into a spontaneous dance party! It was beautiful to see them just acting like normal teenagers together. While this will not solve all the complex problems in region, I hope that it will be a seed. 


What was the final project?

The installation of a huge mural at the Hand in Hand School, which was then installed at the US Consulate in Jerusalem.  There it is visible to people from all backgrounds as they wait to apply for their visas.

Any thoughts about the future of this region?

After working with these kids, I do have some hope for these youth. One of their murals, in fact, told a story of the journey from conflict to peaceful coexistence. But I don’t see any easy resolution to the larger conflict.

Joel-Bergner-and Israeli-and-Palestinian-youth

And what about you? Any further plans to work in this region?

Yes, we are planning future projects for communities in the Middle East. These will include the participation of local artists and educators, who will be trained to facilitate their own arts-based community programs. The plan is to turn this concept into a global organization that will focus on advocating for social change through public art. 

Interview conducted by Lois Stavsky; all images courtesy of the artist

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"Joel Bergner"

We first met Joel Bergner aka Joel Artista two years ago when he was painting in Bushwick. We fell in love at once with his intensely vibrant images, reflecting a distinct global aesthetic. Since then, Joel — who refers to himself as a “nomadic artist, educator and advocate for social change” — has led community projects across the globe, including in the Za’atari Syrian refugee camp in Jordan. We recently had the chance to speak to him about his experience there.

Since we last saw you in NYC, you’ve worked with youth throughout the globe, including in a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan. What took you to this particular setting?

I like to work where I can do the most good.  I’m interested in using public art projects to engage young people in marginalized communities in exploring issues that are important to their lives — and in sharing their messages and visions with others. I had partnered with the organizations aptART and ACTED. And when a program funded by UNICEF offered me the opportunity to work with youngsters in the Za’atari refugee camp, I took it.

Joel Bergner

Can you tell us something about the circumstances of the folks in this refugee camp?

The 100,000 Syrians in Za’atari were among the millions escaping the government forces of Assad’s regime. When they fled their homes in Syria, they left everything behind. When they arrived in Jordan, the Jordanian government allowed them to take refuge. But it also put many in sprawling camps in remote, harsh deserts where their lives have been on hold ever since. While they are legally prohibited from working or doing business, the informal market is booming. It’s inspiring to witness just how resilient the people are.

"Joel Bergner"

What is daily life like inside the camp? 

It is a tense atmosphere. Many of the folks have been traumatized — both emotionally and physically. Almost all have witnessed or experienced violence and the death of loved ones. One 11-year-old boy, for example, rolled back his long sleeve to show us his severely disfigured arm. He told us that government agents had electrocuted him because his father had been a soldier who had switched allegiances to the Free Syrian Army. In Za’atari, people are kept separate from Jordanian society. People are frustrated due to restrictions on their water, food and movement, and there are protests and violent incidents fairly often.

"Joel Bergner"

How did the youngsters respond to your workshops?

The kids loved it.  They loved mixing colors, learning artistic techniques, painting and simply creating. They painted public murals, their wheelbarrows and they made kites. They also learned about hygiene, water conservation, and conflict resolution, which are important issues in the camp. My co-workers were Syrian refugee educators and artists who led the workshops with me. The goals of this project are: to give voice to refugee children through the arts; to connect them to positive role models, and to engage them in educational and creative activities so that they can play a role in rebuilding their communities. The art features positive messages and uplifting imagery intended to liven up their environment. Also, the project provides opportunities to local artists and educators, as some of them have been hired for similar projects after this one ended.

"Joel Bergner"

What — would you say — was the greatest challenge facing you?

Maintaining order. The kids, most of whom went to school in Syria, now roam the refugee camp with few rules or structured activities. They are very rough and frequently get into fights.  Yet, at the same time, they are also really sweet and friendly. So while working with them is challenging, it is also very enjoyable!

What were some of the highlights of your residency in Za’atari?

There were many. Among them: forming relationships with the Syrian refugee adult workers; getting to know the kids; learning basic Arabic and bringing color to a place so desperately in need of it.

Interview by Lois Stavsky with Dani Reyes Mozeson

All photos courtesy of Joel.