Bedford-Stuyvesant

I recently had the opportunity to speak to BedStuy Walls Mural Festival founder and chief curator Miki Mu about the hugely successful community arts festival held earlier this month on Lexington Avenue and Do the Right Thing Way in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

This is all so wonderful. What was your initial inspiration for this project?

This is my neighborhood. I’ve lived in Bed-Stuy for over ten years. I was interested in celebrating and beautifying my neighborhood. And I know the huge power of art to uplift a community! I also wanted to create a space where people and businesses in my neighborhood could interact. My vision for this particular project began about a year ago.

How did you secure these walls? They are in such a prime spot, and these murals have totally transformed the entire block.

My neighbor introduced me to the owner of one of the the businesses on the block. But there were many challenges to actually securing these walls. It was not an easy task!

What were some of these challenges that you encountered in seeing this project through?

After I did secure the walls, I had to get a permit to close the block for the day of the festival. The walls and sidewalk had to be primed in advance. I had to purchase supplies. The entire project was quite expensive. I set up a Go Fund Me, but I did have to cover most of the expenses myself.

You have here such a wonderful range of artists here — from legendary graffiti writers to noted contemporary urban artists to newer emerging ones. How did you get the word out to the artists?

We started an Instagram account, and the word quickly spread. So many artists expressed interest in participating — far more than I could have imagined. I still get requests!

How did the community respond to the event?

The response was tremendous! The community loved it! Families came out, and there were so many kids…jumping rope, dancing to the hip-hop music, making art and simply having fun! It was wonderful — actually better than I had anticipated! But I never could have done this alone; there were many folks whose generosity made this possible. Among them are: Chateau Brooklyn for serving as our mothership, headquarters and base; Badman Bus aka Cookie Monster Bus for providing music and a sound system; all of the DJ’s for volunteering their talents; Cheryl Foy, a retired teacher and resident of the block, for helping us secure the block permit and Joe Cirano from Rogers & Sons, the owner of the walls; the Blue Bus Project for providing activities for the kids; Radial Park for lending us ladders; Project Barkada, also, for lending us a ladder and scaffolding; Solidarity Movers for helping us move all the equipment from one location to another  and for providing, as well, a fun activity for kids;  Black Men Build, Black Chef Movement and Josiane Lysius for providing free food; Loop Colors for adding extra cans to our order; Frankie Velez, my co-curator, for assisting and supporting my efforts in every aspect of this project, and, of course, all of the artists for generously sharing their skills and visions with us.

What’s ahead?

I would like to make the BedStuy Walls Mural Festival an annual event and eventually attain non-profit status.

That would be wonderful! Congratulations!

Images

1. Carlos Rodriguez

2. Jason Naylor

3. Chelsea Garcia to the left of Manuel Alejandro

4. Will Power

5. Belowkey

6. Andre Trenier to the left of Megan Olson and Olga Correa

7. Nac 143 (left), OG Millie (center),  Bom5 with character by Miki Mu (right)

Photo credits: Lois Stavsky

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Ben-Angotti-Biggie

Continuing through tomorrow, Sunday, at the Bishop Gallery is 20 Big Years, an artistic tribute to the late Biggie Smalls. Presented by Spread Art NYC, it features works in a range of styles by over a dozen of our favorite local artists. Pictured above is a portrait of Biggie painted by Ben Angotti. Here are several more images from the exhibit:

Danielle De Jesus, Untitled

Danielle-dejesus-biggie

Danielle Mastrion, Crook from the Brook

danielle-mastrion-biggie

OGMillie, Biggie Smalls

OGMillie-king-of-NY

Fumero, Grafsfract Biggie

fumero-painting-Biggie

A particular highlight of the exhibit is the collaborative piece by Rocko and Zimer, who had painted the now-iconic Biggie tribute mural on Bedford and Quincy. You can check that one out out — along with over 20 other tribute pieces — through tomorrow at the Bishop Gallery, 916 Bedford Avenue in Bed-Stuy.

rocko and zimer-street-art-NYC

Photo credits: 1-5 from 20 Big Years, Tara Murray; 6 Lois Stavsky

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The corner of Myrtle Avenue and Spencer Street in Brooklyn’s historic Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood is now home to two huge distinct murals. The works of Brooklyn-resident Joshua Gabriel, they exude a soulfully mystical aura. We spoke yesterday to the artist about these distinct works.

Joshua Gabriel

We’ve been captivated by these walls since you began fashioning them awhile back. How did they happen — at such a well-traveled intersection?

The owners of International Stone Collections, a custom stone artisan shop at 703 Myrtle Avenue, had placed an ad on Craigslist seeking an artist to create a “textural mural.”  I wasn’t exactly sure what a textural mural was, but I brought it my portfolio, and I was hired.

Wow! Had you worked on the streets before?

I had gotten some stickers and posters up — mainly promoting my music events — but, no, I never painted a public mural before.

What was the experience like?

At first, I was somewhat self-conscious. I had some anxiety about working in public. The entire process is definitely more challenging than working in a private space.  But then I came to love it. I loved the engagement of the passersby.

Joshua Gabriel

What was that like?

In the past year, since I began these murals, hundreds of folks have stopped to talk to me. The Hasidim — whose presence seems to be increasing in the neighborhood — ask questions like, “Are you allowed to do this?”… “Do you make a living from this?” The local teens love it and ask me to do their tattoo for them. Artists speak to me about the process. And long-time local residents keep thanking me! Everyone has been respectful.

What’s going on here?

The murals weave together patterns and images from nature — such as the ripples in water, the textures of leaves, the shapes of clouds with figurative elements, including a giant lion’s head, a sea of eyes, and a pair of ancient Egyptian heads. It’s my subconscious at work!

Have you a particular message or theme that you wish to convey?

The corner of Myrtle Avenue and Spencer Street is the intersection connecting three diverse communities. Pratt art students, born and bred Bed-Stuy residents and members of Williamsburg’s Hasidic populace all meet here. The theme of my work is that all of us — despite our differences  — are interconnected.

Joshua Gabriel

There’s quite a bit of mixed-media here. What materials did you use?

I used exterior paint, spray paint and over 100 metallic paint markers.

There are lots of shades of blues and metallics here. Can you tell us something about your choice of colors?

The wall had originally been painted dark blue, and I liked the way it looked. I decided to repaint in a similar color, and I chose to work with metallics because I love the way they pop out.

Joshua Gabriel

Did you work with a sketch-in-hand?

I don’t work with sketches, but I do use photo references. And I always have notes with me. The actual process, though, is spontaneous.

Have you any influences? Or artists who particularly inspired you?

Alex Gray is a definite inspiration. Others include Keith Haring and my mother, Rochelle Marcus Dinken.

Joshua Gabriel

Are you satisfied with the results of these murals — your first public artworks?

Yes. I’m quite critical of my works, but the reaction has been so positive. And they do look cool!

You can view the murals and meet Joshua Gabriel at a reception to be held this Thursday, June 27, 5-8pm at 703 Myrtle Avenue.

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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