East Harlem

When Don Rimx began painting his portrait of Nuyorican poet Jesús “Tato” Laviera last month, I had the opportunity to speak to the poet’s sister, Ruth Sanchez Laviera. “Don Rimx represents my spirit and my brother’s spirit,” she said. “As soon as I met him, I knew he was the one to paint a mural honoring my brother.” And last Saturday, Oct. 28th, after the mural was officially unveiled at Taino Towers and 123rd Street was renamed for Jesús “Tato” Laviera, I posed a few questions to Rimx:

Your mural depicting Jesús “Tato” Laviera is wonderful. When were you first offered the opportunity to paint his portrait?

I was contacted about a year ago.

Can you tell us a bit about your process? What steps did you take to make this happen?

I began by reading or watching every interview I could find that had been conducted with Jesús “Tato” Laviera. I spent time at Hunter College’s Centro: The Center for Puerto Rican Studies reading Jesús “Tato” Laviera‘s poetry and whatever literature and criticism I could find by him and about him. I came to understand and appreciate just how important a voice he was in the Nuyorican movement. I even had the opportunity to  live in the same apartment in Taino Towers that Jesús “Tato” Laviera lived in and to speak to many folks who knew him.

How about the painting itself? How long did it take you?

I worked 12 hours a day for five days.

And the mural unveiling, along with the renaming of this corner? What was the experience like for you?

It was wonderful! I feel so blessed to have experienced it all. Among the speakers were City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Maria Cruz, executive director of Taino Towers. There was also a poetry reading, along with reminiscences by family and friends.

Congratulations!  We are so happy that this opportunity came your way. It’s great to have your vision and talents shared with us — once again — here in NYC.

Photos: 1 & 2 Lois Stavsky; 3 & 4 courtesy of the artist; featured in the third photo are: Ruth Sanchez Laviera to the left of  Don Rimx and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to his right

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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A range of artworks and writings — by members of the Harlem Art Collective aka HART and the East Harlem community — on the theme No Rezoning, No Displacement, No Gentrification have made their way onto the Guerrilla Gallery on East 116th Street. The image pictured above — painted by Kristy McCarthy aka DGale and Zerk Oer — features a color-coded map with median prices of real estate sales and incomes of East Harlem residents, illustrating how increasingly difficult it is for working-class folks to afford to live in their own community. Several more images follow:

The following two images — featuring actual people who live in the neighborhood, including the homeless man who sleeps in front of the Guerrilla Gallery every night and the woman who sells tamales on the corner — were painted collaboratively by Rosi Mendoza, Maire Mendoza, Marisa Steffers, Harold Baines, Samuelson Mathew, O’Sheena Smith, Michael Mitchell, Amar Bennett, Shani Evans, Anni Merejo, Ralph Serrano, and Nathan Zeiden. The “Derecho A Techo” and “El Barrio No Se Vende” (further down below) signs were fashioned by Mi Casa No Es Su Casa: Illumination Against Gentrification.

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The Trojan Horse — centerpiece of project

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 Earlier on — Ralph Serrano at work

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Kristy McCarthy aka DGale prepares wall for public comments —

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The community contributes: a poem by the Poets of Course from Urban Innovations, assorted artwork, an article about the cost of keeping one person in prison for one year ($60,000 +), prints of paintings depicting the arrivals of Christopher Colombus and Hernán Cortéz and other depictions of colonizers “discovering” new lands.

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 Adam Bomb with an announcement

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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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While visiting CCCADI’s inaugural exhibit in its new East Harlem home, I had the opportunity to speak to one of its curators, Regina Bultron-Bengoa

Just what is CCCADI?

The Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute is a multi-disciplinary arts center that showcases and promotes the distinct contributions of African Diaspora cultures.

How would you define its mission?

Through arts, education and activism it strives to advance change by uniting the various cultures of the African Diaspora, while promoting their value.

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When was it originally established?

Dr. Marta Moreno Vega founded it in 1966 as a center where African and Native cultures of Caribbean and Latin American countries could be recognized and honored. Its first home was on East 87th Street and its last home was in a brownstone in Hell’s Kitchen.

Can you tell us something about its present locale here in this landmark space on East 125 Street in East Harlem?

A few years back, several shuttered landmark firehouses were offered to cultural institutions. With city and state support, nine million dollars were raised to renovate this particular historic one for CCCADI, and on September 16, 2004, we broke ground.

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Who is its audience?

We have a wide audience from students and educators to arts professionals to families. We offer a huge range of free or low-cost exhibits, workshops and activities.

Your inaugural exhibit, Home, Memory, and Future is quite impressive. It is divided into three distinct parts.

Yes. Part I: Harlem: East and West features the works of three acclaimed photographers who have been documenting Harlem since the 70’s. Part II: Harlem and Home in the Global Context showcases artworks that suggest how cultural traditions are used to establish “home” in distant places. And Part III: Mi Quirido Barrio (My Beloved Community) – focusing on the social history of El Barrio — takes place outdoors and in cyberspace, using augmented reality. Among its themes are: migration, nostalgia for the past. gentrification and looking to the future.

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Can you tell us some more about the outdoor element of the exhibit?

Yes. It features locations of importance within the social history of El Barrio. Among these are memorial walls painted on the streets — whose history is documented on a free mobile app, Blippar. Through augmented reality, the app allows us to bring the past to life.

That is quite amazing! How has the response been to CCCADI‘s new home and inaugural exhibit?

The response has been great. There were long lines for the fall opening, and folks who see it love the art and identify with it.

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How can folks contact CCCADI if they would like to visit or become involved?

They can email: info@cccadi.org

Images 

1 & 2 Adrian “Viajero” Roman, Mixed media, 2016

3  Scherezade Garcia, Sea of Wonder, Mixed media, 2016

4 & 5 Oliver Rios & Luis Martinez, Memorial Walls, as seen on the Blippar app while on site

Photo credits: 1-3 Lois Stavsky; 4-5 Courtesy CCCADI

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

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The 15th edition of the NYC Graffiti Hall of Fame, presented by Joey TDS and James Top, was launched this past weekend inside the famed East Harlem schoolyard on 106th Street and Park Avenue. Pictured above is by French graffiti artist Pro176. Here are several more artworks captured yesterday:

Rhode Island-based PFunk at work

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Local writer Rath

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New York City-based graffiti legend Quik

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NYC-based, Stockholm native Scratch, the sole female to paint this year!

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NYC-based Hops1

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NYC-based Poet

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Keep posted to our Facebook page for more images of new Graffiti Hall of Fame murals.

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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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East Harlem resident Naomi RAG has continued to yarn bomb her neighborhood, enhancing it with color, warmth and intrigue. Here are some more images of trees that she has cloaked:

Tree pictured above, as seen last week from another angle

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As seen last week 

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As revisited a few weeks back at night

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And as seen a few weeks back at dusk

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Photos by Dani Reyes Mozeson

Note: Our highly acclaimed Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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A collective of artists based primarily in Harlem, HART has become an active force in the uptown arts scene. While visiting its space, I had the opportunity to speak to one of its founders, Kristy McCarthy aka D Gale.

Can you tell us something about HART’s mission?

Our mission is to use art as a tool to engage, educate and empower the members of our Harlem community.  We are especially interested in beautifying abandoned and neglected spaces.

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When was the Harlem Art Collective first born?  And was anyone – besides you – involved in its conception?

It officially began last February. Gia Gutierrez and I had talked about starting some sort of Harlem-based artist organization. But as she didn’t have enough free time at that point to devote to launching it, Harold Baines and I organized the first few meetings with about 10 other artists and community members.

How did you get the word out?  And how many artists are currently involved?

We initially got the word out mostly via emails and through our personal networks. About 40 artists currently participate.

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Here at HART’s base, you provide space for local artists to live and free studio space for artists to create. In addition, you rent out two of the bedrooms to folks who are in NYC for short periods of time.  How did you come upon such an amazing 5-bedroom space in the heart of East Harlem?

We found out about it from the building’s landlord. And its size and location made it a perfect match for our needs.

Among your projects is the always-engaging Guerilla Gallery on 116th Street off 2nd Avenue. It has introduced us to many new artists, and it also showcases art by some of our all-time favorite ones. What other projects have you initiated? 

We have partnered with other community organizations — such as the East Harlem Block Nursery, Concrete Safaris and the Manatí Community Garden — to paint murals at block parties and community events. We worked with Urban Innovations to paint and install little free libraries in community gardens around Harlem, and we have hosted free art workshops at the HART house.

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How can an artist join your collective?

We hold meetings twice a month. Anyone interested in attending and finding out more about HART can contact us via our Facebook page. We are also going to start a monthly newsletter this spring and, hopefully, add a community calendar to the Guerilla Gallery.

What’s ahead?

We are working on organizing a spring show that will feature artists from the collective and from the neighborhood. We are also working on starting other Guerrilla Galleries on abandoned construction walls around Harlem. And we are planning to paint more murals that directly involve the community. We have, also, recently formed a women’s caucus within the collective to organize projects specifically dedicated to women’s issues and female empowerment.

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That sounds great! Good luck with it all. We are looking forward!

Images:

1. El Nino de las Pinturas, inside the Hart House

2. Lexi Bella, Danielle Mastrion and Kristy McCarthy in East Harlem

3. Kristy McCarthy in East Harlem

4. The Guerrilla Gallery in East Harlem, as seen earlier this year

5. Steve Perez, Zerk Oer and Bio,Tats Cru at the Guerrilla Gallery in East Harlem, as seen this past week on massive wall spelling out E-L  B-A-R-R-I-O

Photo credits: 1 & 4 Tara Murray; 2, 3 & 5 Lois Stavsky

Interview by Lois Stavsky

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Monument Art, an international mural festival — similar in scale and scope to Los Muros Hablan NYC  that took place in 2013 in East Harlem and the South Bronx — was launched earlier this month. Curated by Celso Gonzalez and presented by the La Marqueta Retoña initiative, in collaboration with the City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, it features a stunning array of soulful, site-specific murals.

South African artist Faith 47, 103 St & Madison Ave

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Brooklyn-based Puerto Rican photographer Luis R Vidal, 111 St & 1 Ave

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Belgian artist Roa at work, 1o8 St & Lexington Ave

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 Roa‘s completed piece

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Mexican artist Sego at work, 103 St & Madison Ave

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Sego‘s completed mural

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NYC-based Viajero at work, 113 St & 2 Ave

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Viajero‘s completed mural

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Argentine artist Ever at work on 99 St & 3 Ave

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Ever‘s completed piece

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Andrew Antonaccio and Filio Galvez of the Miami-based collective 2Alas, 138 St & Park Ave, South Bronx

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The first image — a portrait of Puerto Rican novelist Nicholasa Mohr on 111 St and Lexington Ave — was painted by LA based El Mac in collaboration with Puerto Rican artists Celso Gonzalez and Roberto Biaggi, Cero.

Photo credits: 1 & 9 Lois Stavsky; 2, 3, 5-8 & 10-13 Tara Murray; 4. Dani Reyes Mozeson 

Note: This blog will be on vacation through Nov. 1. You can follow us on our Facebook page and on Instagram.

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For the past several wintry months, fiber artist Naomi RAG has been beautifying East Harlem with her splendid yarn bombing. Yesterday, I spoke briefly to Naomi.

"Naomi RAG"

 When did you first begin to grace public streets with your talents?

The first time I yarnbombed was four years ago back in Cambridge, England.

 What inspired you to do so at the time?

Via social media, I had heard about International Yarnbombing Day, and I loved the idea of bringing color and beauty to our urban landscape.

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Where else have you yarnbombed?

Liverpool’s Crosby District — where I was staying for a bit — and here in East Harlem, where I’ve lived for the past year.

 What is your impression of your new neighborhood?

I just love it! I especially love its diversity. It is quite similar to the London Borough of Hackney.

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"Naomi RAG"

How have folks here responded to your pieces here in East Harlem?

All the feedback has been positive. And it’s the positive reactions that motivate me to keep at it.

What’s ahead?

My goal is to create one new piece a month to share here in the public sphere.

That sounds great!  We are looking forward! 

Photos 1-3, Lois Stavsky; 4 & 5, Dani Reyes Mozeson

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Opening this evening from 6-9pm at the Hi-Arts Gallery on 304 East 100th Street is JR’s Inside Out Mi Gente/ Oyáte kiŋ Art Project — focusing on and uniting two communities: NYC’s East Harlem and South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation. Here are a few images captured yesterday while visiting the exhibit, curated by Carlos Mare:

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Closer-up

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And more

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And outside with murals by Alice Mizrachi and Part One

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 Photos by Dani Reyes Mozeson

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"The X-Spot"

Topaz – one of the most active members of the hip-hop and 5Pointz communities – began customizing T-shirts when he was in junior high school. His most recent venture is the X-Spot, a unique space at 2 East 116th Street in East Harlem. We recently visited him and had the opportunity to speak to both Topaz and Jay, the manager of Production X.

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How did you guys come up with the idea to open such a space?

We grew up together in Rego Park, Queens, and we’ve been working together for years. We’ve actually had two stores before – one in Paterson, New Jersey and the other in South Carolina. We wanted to do something different from what we’d done in the past.

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In what ways is this venture different?

Our emphasis here is on providing services and maintaining a gallery.  It is production-based. Although we sell graffiti art on canvases, select magazines — like the latest issue of Flashbacks — and CD’s, our space here is not primarily a store or shop.

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What are some of the services that you provide?

We provide clients with all forms of graphic design — customized murals, logos, portraits, canvases, T-shirts and more.

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It sounds – and looks – great! Whom do you see as your principal clientele?

At this point, it is largely the hip-hop community – rappers and entertainers. But, ideally, the general public, especially as graffiti continues to gain respect and recognition as an art form.

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This is such a great location! It’s right off 5th Avenue in East Harlem and down the block from the 2 and 5 subway lines. How did you guys come up with such a great locale?

A lucky set of circumstances – as Jay’s cousin had previously worked at this location.

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The artwork on display here is primarily by you, TopazJerms and Treat Street NY. Are you open to other artists participating in your projects?

Absolutely.  Talented and committed artists can stop by our space or drop us an email at ProductionX@aol.com or LordRoccolypse@aol.com.

Photo credits: 1. and 2. Topaz by City-as-School intern Tyler Dean Flores; 3. Jerms by Lois Stavsky; 4. Jerms, Topaz & Blone by Lois Stavsky; 5. Treat Street with Jay (X-Productions) by Lois Stavsky; 6. Treat Street, as commissioned by Derek Jeter’s nephew, by Lois Stavsky and 7. PoetPaceJermsSav, Ice and more by Dani Reyes Mozeson

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