Belowkey

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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Conceived by Dusty Rebel, Street Cuts is an ingenious street art-based digital sticker app featuring images by some of our favorite street artists. Eager to find out more about it, I posed a few questions to Dusty:

I just downloaded your newly released Street Cuts app. It’s wonderfully engaging!  Can you tell us something about the concept behind it?

I’ve always loved stickers and their role within the street art community…the way they are collected, traded, and often well-placed on the street — especially on other images like ads. It seemed only natural to bring street art to digital stickers, especially with iMessage, which allows you to drop stickers into your conversations or onto your photos. It felt like a fun way to explore “digital vandalism.” Also, I liked the idea of building a collective of street artists who weren’t being asked to simply “work for exposure,” but would be paid for their work. This Street Cuts app makes that possible.

What about its name — Street Cuts?

When we started developing packs — like Hiss’s and City Kitty’s — made from my photos of their work on the street, we began calling them Street Cuts. We soon realized it would be a cool name for the app, itself.

Who are some of the artists involved in Street Cuts?

It is a growing collective with more artists to come. But for the past few months I’ve been working closely with HISS, Abe Lincoln, Jr., City Kitty, KNOR, Belowkey and the Primate, as they developed digital sticker packs.

How can artists become involved in your project? I’m sure there are many who would like to be included?

While our collective is by invitation-only, I’m open to artists pitching their ideas for a pack to me. They can email me at dusty@streetcuts.co 

How can we find out more about it?

You can come and celebrate the launch of Street Cuts this coming Monday, October 23, from 6-10pm at Arlene’s Grocery, 95 Stanton Street on the Lower East Side. The launch party will include a scavenger hunt, give-aways, and original work by the app’s featured artists, who will also be in attendance. Be sure to download the Street Cuts app first and follow us on Instagram for Scavenger Hunt details.

It sounds great! Congratulations!

All images/photos courtesy Dusty Rebel; the second image features Abe Lincoln, Jr., HISS & KNOR; the third KNOR; the fourth the Primate and the fifth City Kitty; interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; the app​ ​is produced​ ​by​ ​​Itsy​ ​Bitsy​ ​Media​​ ​and​ ​developed​ ​by​ ​​Tanooki​ ​Labs​.

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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Hosting several renowned bands and musicians, Mount Vernon’s Mes Hall is also home to The Drip Project, an ever-evolving treasure trove of images painted by some of NYC’s best-known graffiti artists and most notorious bombers. Last week, we made our way to Mount Vernon to speak to Drip Project director Harris Lobel.

This is such an amazing space. What a treasure! How did you discover it?

I’ve known it for awhile. Several of my friends — who I grew up with in Riverdale — use it as a music studio.

And when did you begin curating it?

About six months ago.

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Riverdale — where you grew up — is quite void of graffiti. Do you remember where and when you first noticed it?

Yes! I was eight years old when I discovered a piece by Tracy 168 on 231th Street and Broadway. I fell in love with it at once, and kept on returning to it.

And these days you seem to love it all! Your personal Instagram, @streetart_photography, features quite a range of street art and graffiti. When did you become so engaged with it all?

When Banksy was here in NYC in 2013 for his Better Out Than In residency, I kept up with his new works daily. Then — after he left — I continued hunting and photographing works on the streets. Within a short period of time, I became thoroughly obsessed with graffiti and street art.

plasma-slug-graffiti

We can certainly relate to that! How did you make contact with all the great writers who have painted here?

I’d met Plasma Slug awhile back, and he introduced me to many of the others. I also got the word out through my Instagram page.

Can you tell us something more about the Drip Project? What is the inspiration behind it? 

It’s basically a collective featuring artists whose styles I love. The inspiration to launch it came from the photography I’ve posted on my Instagram page and the response that it got.

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What do you see as your role? Where are you going?

I would like to promote the artists whose works I love by exhibiting their work and managing the placement of their works in gallery shows. I am also interested in producing a variety of original goods in different media that reflect their styles.

How does your family feel about this?

They love it! My father is a photographer and has been totally supportive.

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You’ve done an amazing job — so far — in reaching out to so many first-rate artists. What has been your greatest challenge in launching the Drip Project?

Getting folks to come out to Mount Vernon — as many haven’t been here before.  And providing artists with money for paint and transportation is another challenge.

How can artists who are interested in participating in the Drip Project contact you?

The best way would be via my email: Harris.Lobel@live.com.

snoeman-graffiti

And what about folks who would like to visit and check out the amazing art?

Yes! They can contact me too — at Harris.Lobel@live.com, and I will arrange to meet them here. There’s a bus from the last stop on the 2 train that stops nearby, and  we are just a short walk from the Metro North.

It all sounds great — and so much fun! Good luck!

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Images

1. Tracy 168

2. & 3. Plasma Slug

4. Belowkey 

5. Stu

6. Snoeman

7. Kingbee

Photo credits: 1, 2 & 4 Lois Stavsky; 3, 5-7 Tara Murray; interview by Lois Stavsky

Note: This blog will be on vacation through March 30. You can follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

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

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