interview

A master of style and ingenuity, the wonderfully talented and resourceful Sade TCM has been making his mark in the writing culture and beyond for over three decades. Recently, we had the opportunity to visit and interview the Mount Vernon-based modern legend.

When did you first get up?

I was in 7th grade when I hit the doors of Clark Junior High School in the South Bronx. I was hanging out in school with Rush M.P.C. who was tagging at the time with fat black markers. He suggested I try it. I did!

What inspired you to keep at it?

Graffiti was all around me. On ceilings. In hallways. Daze and Crash were doing gates that I passed every day while walking around my neighborhood.

And what about trains? When did you first hit the trains?

I was in 10th grade. It was the winter of 1982.

Have you any early graffiti-related memories that stand out?

There are many, but the one that stands out is the day I arrived. The previous evening, I was over at the Esplanade lay-up in the Bronx at the Morris Park/Esplanade stop. I had written SADEISM across three quarters of a  blue and silver car — a beige interior, cherry red outline, sky blue flame cloud with a regal blue outline and white highlights. The next day — as I was sitting on the Writers Bench at 149th Street and the Grand Concourse, along with Dez, G-man PGA, Sob and Cose — the train rolled by and and stopped directly in front of us. What a thrill that was! I knew then that I had arrived!

Did you generally hit the trains alone? 

I was often with my partner, Dune.

What was the riskiest thing you had done back in the day? And why were you willing to take those risks?

Running around in subways tunnels with live third rails and riding on tops of trains when they’re moving –- train surfing — were all risky. Why did I take those risks?  Youthful ignorance of consequences.

How did your family feel about what you were doing?

They mostly didn’t know about it. But my mother definitely didn’t like it. She thought it was stupid, and she warned me that if I got arrested, she wouldn’t be coming to pick me up.

Would you rather paint legally or illegally?

Back then, it was all illegal. But these days I’d rather paint legally. I like the leisure of legal.

You are a master of styles — over 1,000, in fact!. Is there anyone in particular with whom you’d like to paint with or battle?

Yes! I’d like to paint with Baby 168. And I’d like to battle Skeme, because he called me a toy!

How do you feel about the movement of street art and graffiti into galleries? Have you shown in galleries?

It’s a natural evolution. It legitimizes the value of the art. I’ve shown at Wall Works, at More Points and at the galleries of Westchester Community College and SUNY/Purchase University.

What is the main source of your income?

It has always been related to art. After I graduated from high school, I started my own business painting murals. But then after I was involved in a serious accident in 2000, I  switched to graphic design.

Have you a formal art education?

I earned an associates degree in visual arts from Westchester Community College and a BFA from SUNY/Purchase University. But when it came to graffiti, my primary educators were those writers I admired. I’d watch their work on lines as I was coming up.

Was your formal education worthwhile?

Carla Rae Johnson challenged me to use a pencil when I was a student at Westchester Community College. And at Purchase, I learned the most from my anthropology teacher regarding understanding cultures. A formal education did open my mind to broader possibilities.

Do you work with a sketch-in-hand? Or do you just let it flow?

95% of the time I work from a sketch.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece?

Am I satisfied with it? Yes! Am I happy with it? No!

What is your ideal work environment?

My living room and my courtyard, here in Mount Vernon.

What inspires you these days? I’m a visual junkie. Sometimes sculpture. It could be anything! I draw every single day, and I always attempt to do something I haven’t done before.

How has your art evolved through the years?

It’s evolved in both subject matter and technique. I now draw beyond graffiti letters, and draw with pencils, crayons, and charcoal brushes.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Edgar Degas, I like the way he captured light…Roy Lichtenstein and Frank Frazetta. Among graffiti writers: Crash, Daze, Baby 168, Dondi, Tac, Spade, Dez, Part and Kel.

What are some of your other interests?

Writing and cooking. I used to be into motorcycle drag racing.

Have you any thoughts about the graffiti/street art divide?

I feel that the divide exists because of titles. Graffiti writers and street artists can inspire one another. An evolution took place. Many of the early street artists like Keith Haring, Hektad, A. Charles and Richard Hambleton bombed the streets in the spirit of graffiti. Problems arise when street artists scoff at graffiti. Graffiti has not yet gotten the legitimacy it deserves.

What about the role of social media in all of this? How do you feel about that?

It’s a double-edged sword. It’s great for gaining more documentation, knowledge  and exposure. But as the evolution of styles continues to grow at an alarming rate, the Internet has also ushered in an age of mediocrity.

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

A documentarian of the imagination, and the imagination is unlimited.

You recently curated an amazing event in the South Bronx celebrating the launch of the art collective, Ngozy. You were its principal founder.  What prompted you to launch it?

As an artist growing up in NYC, I know firsthand the struggles that artists face — particularly graffiti artists. Our culture is not given the value — nor the serious documentation — that it merits. We know that we have to start somewhere, and collectively we are stronger. Conversations with Ngozy partners John”Crash” Matos and Robert Kantor led to the birth of Ngozy

What is Ngozy‘s mission?

Among its many missions is to reach and educate the broad community about our culture.  We aim to facilitate the artists’ ability to sell and promote their art, as we make the art experience financially accessible to a wide public.

How can folks find out what artworks are available through Ngozy?

They can visit our site or download our free app for iOS or Android.

And what about artists? How can they become involved?

Anyone can register, set up an account, and submit work on the site or on the app. Blog posts and notices of events are also welcome!

I’ve recently registered, and it looks wonderful! I was delighted to discover the works of some of my favorite artists on the Ngozy site. What are some of the challenges you face in promoting the Ngozy collective?

The legitimacy of our art form remains a challenge. We need to shift the understanding of our culture on all levels. Getting exposure is essential, so that we can introduce Ngozy to new people. And we need sponsorship to accomplish our goals.

What’s ahead for Ngozy?

We are working on an all female live-painting event for October 27th, and we are currently seeking sponsorship. Among the many artists scheduled to participate are: Lady Pink, Shiro, Erotica and Steph Burr. Specific details and information will soon follow.

Note: Sade can be contacted at gfantauzzi22@gmail.com.

Interview conducted by Lois Stavsky with Tara Murray and edited by Lois Stavsky; all photos courtesy of Sade.

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Intent on empowering women and raising awareness on social justice, diversity and gender equality, Daniela ZOE Croci has been busy!  I recently had the opportunity to catch up with her and find out a bit more about Women to the Front, a project she has launched.– its  mission and its needs.

Can you tell us something about Women to the Front? You were its principal founder. What spurred you to launch it?  What is its mission?

Its mission is to equalize the gender balance in the arts. During the years that I was active at Exit Room — curating exhibits, arranging performances, organizing presentations and reaching out to the media — I felt that most of the males I came in contact with were dismissive of me. They largely avoided me, and I sensed that they did not take me seriously. In addition, about 80% of the artists who exhibited were male. It was time for a change!

Women to the Front was founded to provide opportunities for women to get together, inspire one another and to collaborate. At our events, you can expect to meet deejays, filmmakers, visual artists, performers and vendors – all females. Panel discussions on a range of relevant topics also take place. We are all about diversity and inclusion. Our mission is to inspire women to just “do it!”

When did Women to the Front hold its first event? 

Its premier event was held at Superchief Gallery here in Brooklyn in November, 2017. I’ve since partnered with Terry Lovette, a singer, performer, dancer and graphic designer. And we are now working on Women to the Front‘s third edition.

How do you decide which women to showcase in your events?

Diversity is essential. The majority of women we showcase are women of color, Latinas and Natives. I reach out to females who create meaningful art, often in relation to trauma and patriarchy. Essential, too, is the individual’s engagement with issues of social justice.

How do you go about finding these women?

Since I moved here. I’ve developed strong connections with many diverse communities through my involvement with hip-hop and dance.

What are some of the challenges you face in seeing your mission through?

One of the biggest challenges is getting folks to know about us. So much is going on, and the amount of information we receive via social media can be overwhelming. Raising funds is another huge challenge. We need money to pay artists, performers, panel discussion participants and more. We would also need sponsorship to enable us to produce videos and publicize what we are doing. We’ve set up a Go Fund Me to help make this happen.

What’s ahead?

A huge event, our third edition of Women to the Front, will take place on Thursday, November 15th at Superchief Gallery. And on October 11th, and a small pre-event will be held at the New Women Space, a community organizing space near the Graham Avenue stop on the L train. We are also working on setting up a Women to the Front Instagram feed and a Facebook account.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; photo credits: 1 Erika Dickstein, 2 & 3  Zack Nesmith and flyer image-painting Jasmin Charles

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 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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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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Growing up in the Bronx in the 70’s  Osvaldo Cruz — under different aliases — began early on tagging and piecing wherever and whenever he could. His subway train art is featured, in fact, in Martha Cooper‘s and Henry Chalfant‘s landmark book, Subway Art. These days, with occasional stints painting legal walls over at Tuff City in the Bronx, Cruz focuses primarily on fashioning abstract — graffiti-inspired — images on canvases and is represented by Fountain House Gallery. An interview with the artist follows:

When and where did you first get up?

It was around 1978. I was eight years old. I lived near Yankee Stadium at the time, and I remember getting my initials, TC –Tito Cruz — up in the yard of P.S. 156, my local elementary school.

Did you have any preferred surfaces?

Anything was fine! I, especially, liked mail trucks.

Who were some of the writers that inspired you back in the day?

I was inspired by the local writers: FDT 56, Hoy 56, Kid 56, Hazzy Haz from the D yard, Blade from the 5 layup, T-Kid from the 1 layup and Flame.

Have you any early memories that stand out?

Meeting Blade in the CC layup on Fordham Road in 1979 and soon after meeting Iz the Wiz up there. They both were already established writers by the time I had hit the subways.

But many memories that are not positive also stand out. One of my favorite graffiti names was GINSU, and that caused a log of turmoil in Chinatown, as all of the the school kids assumed that the tagger was Chinese. There were endless wars and fights back then over everything from copying one’s letters to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There was too much disrespect. Enough to make some of us stop painting burners – knowing that someone was going to write inside or around our pieces.

Did you get up alone or did you paint together with any crews?

I didn’t paint with any crews, but I did have a sidekick, OHenry. He was my link to many different subway layups and yards. OHenry, though, has lost all interest in spray-painting and in graffiti. He doesn’t even want to talk about it. So when I see him these days, I don’t even bring it up.

Had you ever been arrested back in the day for graffiti?

I was once falsely accused up at the 183rd Street Subway Station. I connected with a Legal Aid lawyer, and the case was dismissed.

What was the riskiest thing you’ve done?

Climbing into a yard up in the North Bronx off the 2 train. The fence was really high, and it was too easy to get tangled up in barbed wire. And I didn’t know who would be there once I made it in.

Do you have a formal art education?

I graduated from Art & Design High School in 1987.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

About 75% — whenever I’m not attending to my personal needs, I paint.

Do you make money from your art?

Yes! Through commissions and selling canvases.

At what point did you begin working on canvases?

I actually started to experiment with graffiti art on canvas in the early 80’s, but it wasn’t until 2000 that I began to focus almost exclusively on painting on canvases.

Which mode do you prefer?

I like them both, and I’ve been commissioned to do both.

How do you feel about the engagement of the corporate world with graffiti writers and street artists? 

I have no problem with it. I’m happy for the artists.

Have you shown your work in galleries?

Yes. I’ve shown my work at Fountain House Gallery and at Pace University via Community Access.

Do you work with a sketch in hand or do you let it flow?

No. I don’t work from sketches.

What inspires you these days?

My imagination!

Are you generally satisfied with your finished work?

 Yes!

Are there any particular cultures that influence you at present?

I don’t feel influenced by cultures other than my own, but I like what the European writers are doing. I especially like the Swedish graffiti crew WUFC.

How has your work evolved through the years?

It’s more complex — more sophisticated, and I use more colors.

What’s ahead?

I just want to keep on painting.

Good luck!

All photos courtesy of the artist; interview 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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With her deep passion for street art and remarkable knowledge of the Israeli street art scene, Dina Segev is the quintessential street art tour guide. Whether conducting workshops for school-age children, or lecturing adults about graffiti and street art or simply guiding groups of visitors through the streets of Tel Aviv, her enthusiasm is contagious. While in Tel Aviv earlier this year, I had the opportunity to observe Dina as she conducted a tour for school-age children and, then, speak to her.

When did you first become interested in street art?

As an artist, I’d always been interested in art, and I had been giving private lessons to students in my studio for over 20 years. But I wasn’t aware — for quite awhile — what was happening on the streets. One day, a friend gave me a tour of Florentin, along with a spray can, as a birthday present. I instantly fell in love with what I saw. That was back in 2013. I loved it so much, in fact, that I wanted to take my friends on a tour. And so I took 16 friends on a street art tour of Florentin. It was so interesting that my husband asked me to do it for his company’s clients. And soon afterwards, I took my mother – along with her grandchildren – on a steet art tour for her 75th birthday. Two years later, I closed my studio. Now the streets are my studio.

Among those artists whose works you’ve encountered on the streets, do any stand out?

There are many. Among the first generation artists who come to mind are: Klone, Know Hope, Zero Cents, Adi Sened, Latzi, Foma and Ame 72. Second generation artists include: DedeNitzan Mintz, Dioz, Signor GiUntay, Pesh, Minks, Imaginary DuckB.T.W BinskyLord of Lords and ARC D.L.P.  Among the more recent ones are: Solomon Souza, MR, FrenemyMonkey Rmg, Didi, TAG, Murielle, The MisSK and Damian Tab. And Mati Ale who has brought amazing street art projects to Tel Aviv’s Central Bus Station.

And you, yourself, began painting in the streets? When did you start and why?

I began about a year and a half ago. Why? Because I love the idea of connecting with others — even if I never meet them face to face — through my words on the walls.  It is one heart touching another. And — as a result — the anonymous city becomes less anonymous and, maybe, even a bit intimate!

What about the folks — from school children to retirees — who have participated in your tours and workshops? How have they responded to the street art you introduce them to?

They’ve been really appreciative and express great interest in what they see in the streets. Many begin to look at the streets as they never had before.

And what about the artists, themselves? How have they responded to what you are doing?

I’ve developed friendships with many of the artists, and they’ve been supportive of what I do. The artists are not comfortable, though, with those tour guides who lack the knowledge that a street art tour guide should have.

How has the street art scene in Tel Aviv changed since you first started observing it?

While some artists are no longer as active as they used to be, there are many new ones using the streets as their canvas, including more women. There is definitely more of a balance between males and females.

Can you tell us something more about what you offer?

I offer tours for all occasions and all ages. In addition to street art tours in Tel Aviv, Netanya and Jerusalem, I conduct tours of the graffiti exhibitions inside Tel Aviv’s Central Bus Station. I also present graffiti workshops and conduct lectures on the topic in a range of settings.

How can folks join your tours or participate in your workshops?

If you live abroad, you can contact me by email: Disegev@gmail.com. I can also be reached at this phone number: 052-3869500. And if you read and understand Hebrew, you can contact me via my website.

What’s ahead for you? Any long-term plans or goals?

More tours, more workshops and more lectures. And I’d like to travel to share my knowledge of Tel Aviv street art with others in cities throughout the globe. That is my ultimate goal! I’d, also, like to publish a children’s book about graffiti and maybe one for adults, too!

It all sounds great! Good luck!

Photo credits: 1 (with artwork by MR), 4 & 5 Lois Stavsky; 2, 3, 6 & 7 courtesy Dina Segev; interview conducted and edited 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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With a BFA in Photography and Sculpture from the Massachusetts College of Art, multidisciplinary artist Alessandra Mondolfi describes herself as a “Jill of all Trades.”  A recipient of multiple grants and awards, including a Fulbright Grant to Barcelona, Spain, she has exhibited throughout the globe with works ranging from altered photographs to elaborate large scale multimedia installations. These days, Alessandra Mondolfi  perceives herself  primarily as an artist/activist, whose political artworks surface on the streets of Miami and beyond. I recently had the opportunity to speak to her.

When did you begin to direct your creative talents to the political sphere?

It happened right after the 2017 Women’s March. That was a huge turning point. I took to the streets then using art props as tools of protest. I haven’t stopped, and I’m not stopping. I’m a proud member of the middle-age resistance.

What prompted you to do so? To become so active?

The 2016 Presidential election. It’s a gut reaction to our current state of affairs. These times call for drastic action. Having come of age in Venezuela, I saw first-hand attacks on democracy and on people’s basic values as Chavez ran on a populist front — socialist, but populist. No one took him seriously. They thought of him as a joke. They didn’t think he could win. And when he did, he  destroyed his country. The similarities between him and Trump are staggering. My strongest weapon against this kind of  fascism is my creativity.

How has your in involvement in this movement impacted you?

It’s been therapeutic. Creating art is a way for us to release our anxieties and give us a sense of purpose, especially in times like these.

And what about others? How has your work impacted others? What kinds of responses has it elicited?

The props that I’ve used at various protests have been shown around the world in a range of media — in print, online and on television. I feel as though I am creating the visual message of the resistance for the media to transmit. Much of what I’ve created has gone viral.  Getty and AP images have surfaced in newspapers throughout the world, including Turkey, Bulgaria and India.

What’s ahead?

I’m now working on new props for the March 24th, March for Our Lives in Parkland. These will be followed by wheatpastes that I will post wherever I can.

I’m so glad you’re doing this! Thank you!

Photos: 1 & 3 Lois Stavsky; 2, 4 & 5 courtesy the artist; Interview conducted by Lois Stavsky

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For the past month Brooklyn-based Sara Erenthal has set up base in Tel Aviv. What follows is a brief interview with the intensely committed multi-disciplinary artist:

What brought you to this region? 

It is where I was born, where I had left my religious upbringing and where, six years ago, I had my first art exhibition. And for the past several years, I’d wanted to return to share my art with the ex-Orthodox community and participate in the vibrant, expressive street art culture here.

Can you tell us a bit about the difference between “getting up” here and back home in Brooklyn?

There is more  freedom of expression on the streets here, and because I’m here for a limited amount of time, the experience has been far more intense.

What have been some of the highlights of this trip?

Visiting and painting in Bethlehem, my first time on the “other side,” and having the opportunity to exhibit my artwork here at the Red House Shapira in South Tel Aviv. And the amazing feature article in Haaretz by Tamar Rotem was, also, a highlight.

Can you tell us a bit your exhibit “Re-Cover” here at the Red House Shapira.  How did it happen? 

Shortly after I arrived in Tel Aviv, I visited the Red House Shapira, a unique space — housed in a historic building — known for its commitment to promoting diversity in the arts. There I met Oren Fischer who invited me to showcase an installation of new works created from found materials in the neighborhood.  My intent was to mirror the diversity of the neighborhood in a unified fashion, while giving new life to discarded matter.

What were some of the challenges you faced in making this happen?

The major challenge was the short period of time I had in pulling it all together. Both Tamar Rotem and Max Streetwalker offered me assistance in the logistics of collecting the varied materials and bringing them over to the studio. I am so grateful to them for their help. And, of course, I could not have accomplished this without the studio space that the Red House Shapira provided.

Congratulations! I look forward to seeing your work in similar installations in other cities, including, perhaps, NYC!

Note: “Re-Cover” can still be seen tomorrow, Sunday, from 11:00 to 17:00; Monday 12:00 to 19:00 and Tuesday 10:00 to 19:00 at the Red House Shapira, Israel MiSalant 39 in Shapira, Tel Aviv.

Interview conducted by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits: 1 & 2 Lois Stavsky; 3 Yonatan Ruttenberg and 4-6 Sara Erenthal

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Maya Gelfman & Roie Avidan have been working in public spaces, museums and galleries for more than a decade. Maya’s works have been featured in international art books in Germany and France, and in 2015 Paper Magazine named Maya among the top ten street artists in Israel. Roie has produced documentaries and music videos and published photographs in dozens of newspapers and magazines, print and online. Their collaborative worldwide public-art project Mind the Heart! is entering its tenth year. This past fall, their project brought them to New York City, where I had a chance to meet up with the inspiring, talented couple.

Can you tell us a bit about your backgrounds?

Maya: I’ve always been doing art. I graduated from the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in 2006. My main mediums are installation, painting and street art.

Roie: I am self-taught. I’ve been engaged with visual art for the past 14 years, and nine years ago, I began doing art on the streets. Our work is collaborative, as I generally choose the materials, the concept and the location.

What about your current project Mind the Heart!? What is its mission?

Its principal aim is to promote mindfulness – to ourselves, to our surroundings and to the moment. Many of us – especially those of us who live in the same place for a long time — no longer see the beauty and tend to ignore the ugliness. Too often we become disconnected from one another and miss out on the present.

A little red heart has been surfacing in cities you’ve visited. What does it represent?

This tangled red heart – crooked and messy with dripping ends — is the core of our project. We began by using it on the streets of Tel Aviv to mark the beauty in decay and neglect, the order in chaos, the magic in the ordinary, the soul in things. We’ve since handed out thousands of red yarn hearts along with a simple mission: to go and put it out there, to mark your own spots of significance and share them with the world.

Why did you both choose to use the streets as your principal gallery?

We had both shown in galleries, and we wanted to exhibit in a different way. In 2009, we printed hundreds of posters and placed them on the streets. Within 12 hours, everything was gone. We immediately fell in love with the connection we made with those who viewed our art. We love that street art is completely free.

You are now visiting cities throughout the US. Which cities have you previously visited to share your artwork and to engage people in your project?

We’ve visited various cities throughout Israel. Among the 40 cities we’ve collaborated in are: Florence, London, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Bangkok. We were also invited to orphanages in Kenya and Uganda.

What is the riskiest thing you’ve ever done in the course of executing your project? And why were you willing to take that risk?

Standing on a wobbly 15 foot ladder at a hotel in Florence. The ladder could have fallen at any moment. There was no sense of security. Why did we do it? We just didn’t think about it. It was something that we had to do…something that we needed to do at this time and place.

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetic, particularly this project?

The culture of the American Beat Generation; the notion of “the open road,” and its sense of freedom; Japanese motifs; texts inspired by Taoism; major Russian literature; rock & roll; Kurt Cobain and Leonard Cohen.

What inspires you these days?

Anything and everything!

Have you ever been arrested for your public work?

When we are caught in the act, it becomes a conversation.

What is the attitude of your families and friends towards what you are doing?

They are supportive.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

100%

In addition to your tangled red heart, what other media do you use in Mind the Heart!

We use yarn, shoe-box lids, duct-tape and foam.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished product?

The vast majority of the time.

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

To evoke an emotion…to make someone feel something…to invite people to reflect…to make them mindful.

And how can folks become involved in your project?

They can contact us with ideas for places, people, collaborations, events, murals, and any creative or serendipitous idea they may have.

Locations of  featured images:

1 Bushwick, Brooklyn

2 East Village, Manhattan

3 & 4 Decatur, Georgia

5 Tel Aviv, Israel

6 Jekyll Island, Georgia

7 Easton, Pennsylvania 

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky.

Photo credits: 1 Lois Stavsky; 2-7 courtesy Maya Gelfman & Roie Avidan.

Note: You can follow the Mind the Heart! project here and on its Instagram account here; you can, also, support the project here.

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In 2015 Ironbound founder Gary Bloore started Paint for Pink when his partner, Lisa Byron, was battling breast cancer. After years of fighting the disease, Lisa passed on December 8th, 2016.  Gary Bloore has continued the tradition of Paint for Pink in Lisa’s memory. I recently met up with Gary at Ironbound‘s new site, a huge — once abandoned stadium — at 226 Rome Street in Newark, NJ, the home of this year’s Paint for Pink.

What an amazing site this is! Can you tell us a bit about it?

What was once a 4,500-seat concrete bleacher stadium was shut down and abandoned in 1987.  No one wanted to touch it. There was trash everywhere — broken bottles, litter, rubbish of every type. And then in May, we got permission to clean it up.

That’s quite a feat! How did you manage to do that?

Lots of elbow grease and determination. And visions of events — such as this one — that could take place here. There were about 50 volunteers. It has been a year of expansion for us working in partnership with Ironbound president Mike Steadman, along with the City of Newark. It’s a symbol of rebirth for us. Lisa died in December, and in these past few months we took a dead stadium and put life into it.

What is the particular mission of this event — Paint for Pink

Its mission is to create and spread awareness of breast cancer and other health-related issues. The Rutgers Community Health Center brought a mobile van and gave free exams. Since July, in fact, we have been working with the Rutgers School of Nursing and Newark Tech High School’s Teal Center in establishing the LIT (Learning, Inspiring Teaching) Program with the mission of teaching Newark Tech High School kids how to teach other kids about health issues.

What a great concept! How many artists participated in this year’s Paint for Pink event?

Twenty-eight artists contributed. In addition to the Newark-based artists The Artchitectz, others from out-of-town — such as Dojo and Repo — joined us.

And how was the response?

It was tremendous!  There was tremendous community interest and involvement — and lots of entertainment and great food.

Congratulations! It is all so amazing! And the art is wonderful.

Images

1 Goomba, Rizl and BenK

2 Seoz

3 DOJO

4 Repo

5 Chek, Dojo, Lesk, Repo, Tameartz +

6 Mone & Jick +

7 Torch Fuego and Risky — indoors

Photo credit: 1, 2, 4-7 Lois Stavsky; 3 courtesy Gary Bloore; interview conducted and edited 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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