Walls

Garavato musicians illustration Speaking with Colombian Artist Garavato in NYC

With a B.A. degree in Industrial Design, Colombian native Garavato has designed and developed dozens of projects in a range of media. During the past three years, he has also shared his talents on public spaces. I recently had the opportunity to meet up with him when he was in NYC where he painted at Grove Alley in Downtown Brooklyn and at EBC High School.

When did you first hit a public surface? And where?

Three years go in Argentina.

What inspired you to do so?

I had always worked on paper, on canvas and on indoor walls.  But I wanted to try to get a huge stencil up in a public space. And when I had the opportunity to do so legally in Buenos Aires, I did.  And I’ve been doing it since.

garavato collab street art Speaking with Colombian Artist Garavato in NYC

Do you tend to restrict yourself to legal surfaces?

I usually ask for permission when I’m a guest in another city, but in Bogota, where I’m now based, it’s okay for me to get up just about anywhere.

In what other cities have you painted?

I’ve painted in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro. Berlin, Napoli and now in NYC.

How does your family feel about what you are doing outdoors?

At first, my father was concerned. But now he is very supportive.

garavato stencil street art nyc Speaking with Colombian Artist Garavato in NYC

What percentage of your day is devoted to your art?

All of it. 24/7. It is the sole source of my income, as I work as a designer and illustrator.

Do you have a formal arts education?

I studied Industrial Design for five years. So my background isn’t in fine arts or illustration. But I’ve always been drawing, and my mom is a painter.

What about galleries? Have you shown your work in galleries?

Yes, I’ve exhibited in Argentina, Chile, Italy and in major cities in Colombia.

gavarato exhibit italy Speaking with Colombian Artist Garavato in NYC

Do you prefer working alone or collaborating with others?

I like working by myself, but I also like learning from others. And that happens best when I collaborate with other artists.

How has your work evolved in the past few years?

I’ve begun to paint on a much larger scale and — inspired by the works of Emory Douglas, Shepard Fairey and Toxicomano – I am using fewer colors.

What inspires you these days?

So much! Music, birds — the freedom they represent – skulls, animals and the notion of evolution.

garavato public art Speaking with Colombian Artist Garavato in NYC

Have any particular cultures influenced your aesthetic?

I’d say the punk culture, the street art movement and the DIY (Do It Yourself) movement.

What do you see as the role of the artist in society?

The artist gives a gift to the people, stirs conversation and raises consciousness.

How you feel about the role of the Internet in this scene?

It’s amazing! It give us artists the opportunity to connect with so many people. And I love that feeling.

garavato art illustration nyc Speaking with Colombian Artist Garavato in NYC

And what about you? What’s ahead?

I’d like to focus on stencils, further develop my own brand and travel more.

Sounds good! Good luck!

Interview by Lois Stavsky; all photos courtesy of the artist, except for photo 3 by Lois Stavsky

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Warmi Paint Ecuador Toofly on the Upcoming All Women Warmi Paint Arts Festival in Quito

We miss Toofly when she isn’t in NYC, but we love what she’s up to in her native Quito. You can find out about her current project here:

Just what exactly is Warmi Paint?

Warmi Paint is an all-women arts and culture festival that will launch this fall in Quito, Ecuador.

Graffiti Ecuador. jpg Toofly on the Upcoming All Women Warmi Paint Arts Festival in Quito

What is Warmi Paint’s mission?

Its mission is to celebrate and empower Latin American women street artists with a focus on graffiti, street art and murals.

What does the name Warmi mean or represent?

Warmi means “woman” in Quechua. It is the name of the people of the Central Andes of South America. It is also the name of their language. Women of all ages from this part of the world will create a new vision of themselves, nurture their communities and reflect a powerful message.

Ecuador graffiti Women Toofly on the Upcoming All Women Warmi Paint Arts Festival in Quito

What can visitors expect?

Special guests and 20 women artists will paint collaborative murals, host workshops, and present their work to the Ecuadorian community. We will have graffiti films, slideshow presentations, panels, youth workshops, pop-up shops and a concert! People of all ages will benefit from this unique cross-cultural exchange and community-building experience.

Warmi Paint Image Toofly on the Upcoming All Women Warmi Paint Arts Festival in Quito

It sounds wonderful! Good luck with this!

Note: Your support will help artist/curator TOOFLY (NYC) and artist/curator HTM (Ecuador) realize their mission.  Find out how you can help fund the project here.

Photos courtesy of Toofly

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This is the eighth in a series of occasional posts featuring images of children that have surfaced on NYC public spaces:

Nick Walker in the South Bronx

Nick walker street art bronx Kids on Walls — Part VIII: Nick Walker, Izolag, Chain, Lorenzo Masnah, Miss 163, Adnate, Icy & Sot and Shiro

Izolag in Hunts Point

izolag street art south bronx nyc Kids on Walls — Part VIII: Nick Walker, Izolag, Chain, Lorenzo Masnah, Miss 163, Adnate, Icy & Sot and Shiro

Chain for JMZ Walls in Bushwick

s chain street art nyc Kids on Walls — Part VIII: Nick Walker, Izolag, Chain, Lorenzo Masnah, Miss 163, Adnate, Icy & Sot and Shiro

Lorenzo Masnah on the Lower East Side

lorenzo Kids on Walls — Part VIII: Nick Walker, Izolag, Chain, Lorenzo Masnah, Miss 163, Adnate, Icy & Sot and Shiro

Miss 163 in Hunts Point

miss 163 street art hunts point nyc Kids on Walls — Part VIII: Nick Walker, Izolag, Chain, Lorenzo Masnah, Miss 163, Adnate, Icy & Sot and Shiro

Australian artist Adnate at the Bushwick Collective, close-up

adnate street art bushwick collective nyc Kids on Walls — Part VIII: Nick Walker, Izolag, Chain, Lorenzo Masnah, Miss 163, Adnate, Icy & Sot and Shiro

Icy and Sot on the Lower East Side, close-up

icy sot street art nyc Kids on Walls — Part VIII: Nick Walker, Izolag, Chain, Lorenzo Masnah, Miss 163, Adnate, Icy & Sot and Shiro

Shiro in Bushwick

shiro street art nyc Kids on Walls — Part VIII: Nick Walker, Izolag, Chain, Lorenzo Masnah, Miss 163, Adnate, Icy & Sot and Shiro

Note: Entre La Guardia y El Dorado, featuring works by Lorenzo Masnah (featured above) and Alex Seel, will open this evening at 6pm at XY Atelier Gallery, 81 Hester Street on the corner of Orchard. It will remain on view until August 30.

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

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buff monster close up street art nyc The LoMan Art Festival in Downtown Manhattan with: Buff Monster, Beau Stanton, Ludo, Dain & Stikki Peaches, J Corp, Ron English, B.D. White & JPO, Leon Reid and more

Earlier this month, the LoMan Art Festival brought not only live art by a wonderfully diverse range of artists to Downtown Manhattan, but also a series of workshops, performances and events. And even though the festival has officially ended, mammoth murals continue to surface on our streets. Here are a few scenes from it all:

Another close-up from Buff Monster‘s huge mural

buff monster mural fragment les lisa project nyc The LoMan Art Festival in Downtown Manhattan with: Buff Monster, Beau Stanton, Ludo, Dain & Stikki Peaches, J Corp, Ron English, B.D. White & JPO, Leon Reid and more

Beau Stanton at work on mammoth mural on East Third Street

Beau stanton street art nyc The LoMan Art Festival in Downtown Manhattan with: Buff Monster, Beau Stanton, Ludo, Dain & Stikki Peaches, J Corp, Ron English, B.D. White & JPO, Leon Reid and more

 French artist Ludo in the East Village

Ludo street art LISA Project NYC The LoMan Art Festival in Downtown Manhattan with: Buff Monster, Beau Stanton, Ludo, Dain & Stikki Peaches, J Corp, Ron English, B.D. White & JPO, Leon Reid and more

Dain and Montreal-based artist Stikki Peaches

dain and stikki peaches street art nyc The LoMan Art Festival in Downtown Manhattan with: Buff Monster, Beau Stanton, Ludo, Dain & Stikki Peaches, J Corp, Ron English, B.D. White & JPO, Leon Reid and more

JCorp at the Social Sticker Club‘s installation inside the Mulberry Street lot during the festival

J Corp sticker social club loman arts fest The LoMan Art Festival in Downtown Manhattan with: Buff Monster, Beau Stanton, Ludo, Dain & Stikki Peaches, J Corp, Ron English, B.D. White & JPO, Leon Reid and more

Ron English with assistance from Solus standing to his right

Ron English street art LoMan Arts Festival NYC The LoMan Art Festival in Downtown Manhattan with: Buff Monster, Beau Stanton, Ludo, Dain & Stikki Peaches, J Corp, Ron English, B.D. White & JPO, Leon Reid and more

JPO and B.D. White, one of many collaborations spotted along Mulberry Street

JPO BD White street art NYC The LoMan Art Festival in Downtown Manhattan with: Buff Monster, Beau Stanton, Ludo, Dain & Stikki Peaches, J Corp, Ron English, B.D. White & JPO, Leon Reid and more

Leon Reid,  alongside murals by Team Crash — John Matos, Ananda Nahu and Izolag — and Team BIO — Bio, Nicer and Binho — for the Secret Walls Illustration Battle

Art Battles Leon Reid street art nyc The LoMan Art Festival in Downtown Manhattan with: Buff Monster, Beau Stanton, Ludo, Dain & Stikki Peaches, J Corp, Ron English, B.D. White & JPO, Leon Reid and more

Keep posted to the StreetArtNYC Facebook page for more images of the works that have surfaced and continue to do so in Downtown Manhattan through the efforts of the LISA Project

Photo credits: 1, 3, 5, 6 & 9 Dani Reyes Mozeson; 2 & 4 Tara Murray; 7 Rey Rosa Photography / The LoMan Art Festival and 8 Lois Stavsky

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Werc rubin415 Billy Mode street art Baltimore section1 Project Section I Project in Baltimore with: Werc, Rubin, Billy Mode, Nether, Adam Estes, Adam Stab, La Anarchy, Kike Castillo & Jesse Kuzniarsk

While in Baltimore earlier this month, I stumbled upon an intriguing medley of murals just a few steps from Station North. I soon discovered that they were sponsored by Section 1, an ambitious urban art project aimed at transforming an adjacent abandoned 3.5-acre site into a huge urban art park with over 70,000 square feet of paintable surfaces. Here are a few more murals I sighted that day, some of which are certain to have been repainted in this open-air revolving canvas.

Baltimore native Nether

Nether section1 project street art Baltimore Section I Project in Baltimore with: Werc, Rubin, Billy Mode, Nether, Adam Estes, Adam Stab, La Anarchy, Kike Castillo & Jesse Kuzniarsk

New Orleans native Adam Estes

Adam Estes section 1 Project Baltimore street art Section I Project in Baltimore with: Werc, Rubin, Billy Mode, Nether, Adam Estes, Adam Stab, La Anarchy, Kike Castillo & Jesse Kuzniarsk

Baltimore-based Adam Stab

adam stab section 1 project graffiti Baltimore Section I Project in Baltimore with: Werc, Rubin, Billy Mode, Nether, Adam Estes, Adam Stab, La Anarchy, Kike Castillo & Jesse Kuzniarsk

La Anarchy

LA Anarchy Section 1 Project Public Art Baltimore Section I Project in Baltimore with: Werc, Rubin, Billy Mode, Nether, Adam Estes, Adam Stab, La Anarchy, Kike Castillo & Jesse Kuzniarsk

Baltimore-based Colombian tattoo artists Kike Castillo and Jesse Kuzniarsk

Kike Castillo and Jesse Kuzniarski Section 1 project Baltimore street art  Section I Project in Baltimore with: Werc, Rubin, Billy Mode, Nether, Adam Estes, Adam Stab, La Anarchy, Kike Castillo & Jesse Kuzniarsk

 Note: The first image pictured is a collaborative mural by Werc, Rubin and Billy Mode

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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Nether Freddy Gray Mural Baltimore copy Baltimore Based Artist/Activist Nether on Breaking Down Barriers, Honoring Freddy Gray, Forging Street Art for Social Justice and more

A few years back, several wheatpastes – many of children — surfaced on the walls of NYC’s marginal neighborhoods. The works of Baltimore-based artist and activist Nether, they seamlessly reflected the folks with whom they shared the streets. In his native Baltimore, Nether has been actively involved in several community-oriented projects, including Baltimore Slumlord Watch drawing attention to neglected properties and the issue of vacant housing. And in 2013, as founder and president of the non-profit, Wall Hunters, INC, he facilitated the installation of 17 murals on abandoned properties in Baltimore.  More recently,  Nether‘s focus has been on the death of Freddy Gray at the hands of his city’s police and Baltimore’s broken justice system. While visiting Baltimore earlier this month, I had the opportunity to speak to Nether and visit some of his recent murals.

When I last visited Baltimore, you were involved in the Wall Hunters: Slumlord Project.  Its intention was to expose landlords who had neglected properties. Have you seen any outcomes from this project?

Definitely! Since the project began, there’s been dialogue on the issue and focus from the social justice community. It’s hard to know if we were directly responsible, but several buildings that we targeted have been demolished. The first one happened only a month after Stefan Ways painted his piece on it.

Nether and Stefan Ways mural art Rose Street Baltimore Based Artist/Activist Nether on Breaking Down Barriers, Honoring Freddy Gray, Forging Street Art for Social Justice and more

How has the local art scene changed in these past few years?

It really has.  There seem to be many more projects coming from a variety of directions and approaches.  Also, recently there has been a lot of reflection in the art scene on the many barriers in the city that separate people. Hopefully, this will create pressure on curators, venues, gallery owners, and arts businesses to diversify their crowds, artists and outreach. There has, also, been a focus on social justice through street art this summer. I have been involved in organizing murals in Sandtown. BOPA has been running this amazing ART@WORK program — in partnership with Jubilee  –  teaching and employing kids in Sandtown to paint murals with professionals such as Ernest Shaw.  Also, a group of Morgan students organized an installation on Greenmount Avenue adjacent to a wall by Pablo Machioli and Gaia.  Other active projects include: Richard Best’s Section 1 Project and the Shift Project in Highlandtown.

Nether and Stefan ways mural baltimore Baltimore Based Artist/Activist Nether on Breaking Down Barriers, Honoring Freddy Gray, Forging Street Art for Social Justice and more

The memorial mural that you painted in tribute to Freddy Gray has garnered quite a bit of media attention.  At what point did you begin painting the mural?

The planning began after his death around the time of the first protest, and I began painting the mural the day the curfew ended.

What was the mood like the evening of his death?

People were respectful and united.  So much solidarity that evening. The people were taking their pain and turning it into an incredibly positive movement.

Nether street art baltimore Baltimore Based Artist/Activist Nether on Breaking Down Barriers, Honoring Freddy Gray, Forging Street Art for Social Justice and more

How do folks in Sandtown respond to your presence in their neighborhood?

Generally, people are surprised, yet welcoming.  People constantly speak to me, and I always welcome that.  I essentially sit on a ladder all day and receive stories.  My feeling is that I’m a guest in their neighborhood, and I need the people’s blessings to paint.  Also, I’m very up-front about my personal background and what part of the city I’m from. I do get occasional comments that are meant to offend me, but street art in Baltimore has the potential to break down the social boundaries created by decades and decades of discrimination.  A mutual feeling of Bmore Love among Baltimoreans is one of those forces that is so strong that, I believe, it can get over any hurdle that is thrown in front of it.  When I go to a place like Sandtown, it is to create a dialogue and deal with hard topics that I have to be comfortable talking about. What I do isn’t easy; it deals with very difficult issues.  Many of the conversations that I have had with people have heavily influenced my artwork. I try to plan murals that are able to adapt and change through dialogue and the creative process.

Nether mural art Baltimore Baltimore Based Artist/Activist Nether on Breaking Down Barriers, Honoring Freddy Gray, Forging Street Art for Social Justice and more

What did bring you to Sandtown at such a difficult time?

Having previously done many paste-ups and murals in Sandtown, loving Baltimore, and the fact that state violence had been the focus of my work for a while now.

And how has the response to the final mural been?

Folks have been extremely appreciative and supportive.  The mural has attracted media, often giving residents the chance to speak out about those issues that are so important to the entire city.  The more murals that go up from all the projects going on in Sandtown, the more this will happen. The idea is to promote a message that is amplified so loudly that it can no longer be ignored.

Nether Mural caught in the lines Baltimore Based Artist/Activist Nether on Breaking Down Barriers, Honoring Freddy Gray, Forging Street Art for Social Justice and more

What’s ahead?

More murals in Baltimore that will act to aid the movement and call out the issues that have plagued Baltimore’s neglected neighborhoods for generations.

Note: Photos 2 and 3 are of murals done in collaboration with Stefan Ways.

Interview by Lois Stavsky; photo 4 by Lois Stavsky; all others courtesy of the artist.

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This is the 16th in an occasional series of posts featuring images of girls — and women — who grace NYC public spaces:

Dasic Fernandez at the Bushwick Collective

Dasic Fernandez street art Bushwick Collective NYC Girls on Walls, Part XVI: Dasic, William Power, Toofly, Jorit Agoch, QRST, Tristan Eaton, Zeso, JR and Ananda Nahu

William Power in East New York

William power street art nyc Girls on Walls, Part XVI: Dasic, William Power, Toofly, Jorit Agoch, QRST, Tristan Eaton, Zeso, JR and Ananda Nahu

Toofly in Astoria for the Welling Court Mural Project

toofly street art welling court NYC Girls on Walls, Part XVI: Dasic, William Power, Toofly, Jorit Agoch, QRST, Tristan Eaton, Zeso, JR and Ananda Nahu

Jorit Agoch at the Bushwick Collective

Jorit Agoch street art bushwick collective Girls on Walls, Part XVI: Dasic, William Power, Toofly, Jorit Agoch, QRST, Tristan Eaton, Zeso, JR and Ananda Nahu

QRST in Bushwick

qrst street art NYC Girls on Walls, Part XVI: Dasic, William Power, Toofly, Jorit Agoch, QRST, Tristan Eaton, Zeso, JR and Ananda Nahu

Tristan Eaton in Little Italy for the LISA Project

tristan eaton little italy street art nyc Girls on Walls, Part XVI: Dasic, William Power, Toofly, Jorit Agoch, QRST, Tristan Eaton, Zeso, JR and Ananda Nahu

Zeso in Astoria for the Welling Court Mural Project

zeso graffiti welling court NYC Girls on Walls, Part XVI: Dasic, William Power, Toofly, Jorit Agoch, QRST, Tristan Eaton, Zeso, JR and Ananda Nahu

JR in Nolita

JR public street art NYC Girls on Walls, Part XVI: Dasic, William Power, Toofly, Jorit Agoch, QRST, Tristan Eaton, Zeso, JR and Ananda Nahu

Ananda Nahu in Hunts Point, as seen on this past weekend’s #NYTBronxWalk

Ananda Nahu South Bronx street art NYC Girls on Walls, Part XVI: Dasic, William Power, Toofly, Jorit Agoch, QRST, Tristan Eaton, Zeso, JR and Ananda Nahu

Photo credits:  1, 2, 5, 7 & 9 Lois Stavsky 3, 6  Tara Murray 4 Courtesy Jorit Agoch & 8 Courtesy M18

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This past Saturday, David Gonzalez, award-winning journalist, photographer and co-editor of the New York Times photoblog, Lens, led a group of Instagramers on a walk through Hunts Point, introducing us to works by some of its legendary graffiti artists and muralists. Here are a few images StreetArtNYC captured on Instagram:

Tats Cru with How and Nosm, close-up

tats cru graffiti street art NYTBronxWalk NYC David Gonzalez Guides a <em>New York Times</em> Photo Walk in Hunts Point: Tats Cru, How & Nosm, Ces, Daze, Crash and more

Nicer, Tats Cru with Instagramer Sarah Sansom aka catscoffeecreativity seated

nicer graffiti street art NYT Bronx Walk NYC David Gonzalez Guides a <em>New York Times</em> Photo Walk in Hunts Point: Tats Cru, How & Nosm, Ces, Daze, Crash and more

Ces

ces street art nytBronxWalk NYC David Gonzalez Guides a <em>New York Times</em> Photo Walk in Hunts Point: Tats Cru, How & Nosm, Ces, Daze, Crash and more

Daze

Daze graffiti NYTBronxWalk NYC David Gonzalez Guides a <em>New York Times</em> Photo Walk in Hunts Point: Tats Cru, How & Nosm, Ces, Daze, Crash and more

Crash, who also shared some Hunts Point history with us, in front of his mural

Crash graffiti NYTBronxWalk NYC David Gonzalez Guides a <em>New York Times</em> Photo Walk in Hunts Point: Tats Cru, How & Nosm, Ces, Daze, Crash and more

David Gonzalez leads the way to the Point, Tats Cru‘s headquarters

David Gonzalez the Point graffiti NYTBronxWalk NYC David Gonzalez Guides a <em>New York Times</em> Photo Walk in Hunts Point: Tats Cru, How & Nosm, Ces, Daze, Crash and more

Artist-at-work at the Point

graffiti The Point NYTBronxWalk NYC David Gonzalez Guides a <em>New York Times</em> Photo Walk in Hunts Point: Tats Cru, How & Nosm, Ces, Daze, Crash and more

David Gonzalez (left), Whitney Richardson (center), James Estrin (right) and Kerri MacDonald (top) of The New York Times at the Point

David Gonzalez Whitney Richardson James Estrin Kerri MacDonald NYTBronxWalk NYC David Gonzalez Guides a <em>New York Times</em> Photo Walk in Hunts Point: Tats Cru, How & Nosm, Ces, Daze, Crash and more

Renowned photojournalist Martha Cooper, also on the walk, shared with us some photos she had taken of the trains in key spots over 30 years ago, and she captured us all here.

Note: You can check out the Instagram hashtag #NYTBronxWalk for more images from Saturday’s tour.

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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Chilean German artist PAU street art Asbury Park New Jersey In Asbury Park, NJ with Pau, Cope2, Joe Iurato, Indie 184, Pork Chop, Logan Hicks, Hacula and more

Artworks in a range of styles by local, regional and international artists continue to surface along Asbury Park’s waterfront. Here are a few more:

Cope2 and Joe Iurato

cope joe iurato street art asbury park In Asbury Park, NJ with Pau, Cope2, Joe Iurato, Indie 184, Pork Chop, Logan Hicks, Hacula and more

Indie 184

Indie graffiti street art asbury Park New Jersey In Asbury Park, NJ with Pau, Cope2, Joe Iurato, Indie 184, Pork Chop, Logan Hicks, Hacula and more

Mike La Vallee aka Pork Chop

Porkchop street art Asbury Park New Jersey In Asbury Park, NJ with Pau, Cope2, Joe Iurato, Indie 184, Pork Chop, Logan Hicks, Hacula and more

Logan Hicks

Logan Hicks street art Asbury Park In Asbury Park, NJ with Pau, Cope2, Joe Iurato, Indie 184, Pork Chop, Logan Hicks, Hacula and more

B Ready

ready asbury park street art new jersey  In Asbury Park, NJ with Pau, Cope2, Joe Iurato, Indie 184, Pork Chop, Logan Hicks, Hacula and more

Harif Guzman aka Hacula

Harif Guzman street art asbury park new jersey In Asbury Park, NJ with Pau, Cope2, Joe Iurato, Indie 184, Pork Chop, Logan Hicks, Hacula and more

Note: The first image is by Chilean-German artist Pau

Special thanks to Billy Schon of FreshPaintNYC for sharing these images with us.

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Joel Bergner and Israeli and Palestinian youth mural fragment l Brooklyn Based Artist and Arts Educator Joel Bergner aka Joel Artista on His Recent Project with Israeli and Palestinian Youth

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. 

Israeli and Palestinian youth with Joel Bergner paint mural Brooklyn Based Artist and Arts Educator Joel Bergner aka Joel Artista on His Recent Project with Israeli and Palestinian Youth

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.

Israeli and Palestinian youth mural at American Consulate in Jerusalem Brooklyn Based Artist and Arts Educator Joel Bergner aka Joel Artista on His Recent Project with Israeli and Palestinian Youth

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 Brooklyn Based Artist and Arts Educator Joel Bergner aka Joel Artista on His Recent Project with 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. 

Israeli and Palestinian youth celebrate Brooklyn Based Artist and Arts Educator Joel Bergner aka Joel Artista on His Recent Project with Israeli and Palestinian Youth

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 Brooklyn Based Artist and Arts Educator Joel Bergner aka Joel Artista on His Recent Project with 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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