collaborative art

I love when artists bring their talents to NYC public schools, not only beautifying them but also conveying positive messages that encourage dialog. And the best of these projects involve and reflect the members of the immediate community. Prospect Heights-based Jeff Beler has done it again! Following his wonderful transformation of PS 9, he has recently brought his passion and curatorial skills to PS 321 in Park Slope, Brooklyn. While there this past Thursday, as several artists were adding finishing touches to a huge wall in PS 321‘s school yard, I had the opportunity to pose a few questions to Jeff:

This looks great! I’m so glad you guys are bringing your talents to local schools. How did this come to happen? 

PS 321 PTA co-president Lauren Gropp Lowry had seen the STEAM Mural Project I had curated over at PS 9. She, along with other PS 321 parents liked what they saw and wanted to bring a similar project to their children’s school. And they, then, proposed the idea to their school’s principal.

When did this project, No Place for Hate, begin? 

We began talking about it in June, but we didn’t want to start it until the school year began. We wanted the members of the school community involved in every aspect of its planning.

And what about the theme of it? How was that chosen?

There was a general consensus that the emphasis would be on promoting tolerance and kindness and taking a strong stand against bullying. And the students at PS 321 came up with the specific concepts.

How did you decide which artists to engage in seeing No Place for Hate through?

Through the projects I’ve curated in the past — particularly UnderHill Walls and the STEAM Mural Project at PS 9 — I’ve developed  many close relationships with artists. I have a strong sense of which artists I can trust to show up on schedule and which artists work well together. Among the artists who participated in this current project are: Subway Doodle, Justin Winslow, Jaima, Calicho Arevalo, Marco Santini, My Life in Yellow, Majo, Paulie Nassar, Raddington Falls, AJ Lavilla, Zero Productivity and Paolo Tolentino.

And I notice that you have students, parents and various members of the community involved today. You even have a local architect, @krassness, adding details to your buildings!

Yes, many members of the school community and folks who live in the neighborhood  have been involved, lending us their skills, since we began painting.

What were some of the challenges you faced in seeing this through?

I can’t think of any. Everything has gone so smoothly. And we’ve had wonderful sponsors. Among them are: Blick Art Materials, Starbucks Art Program, The Corcoran Group, Tarzian Hardware and Hanson Place Orthodontics.

How have folks responded to No Place for Hate? They seem to love it!

Yes! The response has been great!

Congratulations!

Images:

1. My Life in YellowJustin WinslowJeff Beler and more

2. Majo (pictured standing), Zero Productivity and Jeff Beler (pictured standing)

3. Calicho Arevalo and more

4. Subway Doodle and Paolo Tolintino 

5. Justin Winslow and Zero Productivity

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits: 1-3 Lois Stavsky; 4 City-as-School intern Sage Ironwood and 5 City-as-School intern Angelize Santiago 

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The wonderfully talented Menace Two and Resa Piece have merged their sensibilities and skills to fashion a captivatingly stunning array of murals that have made their way not only throughout NYC, but across the country. I was delighted to have the opportunity meet up with them in their Bushwick home that they’ve aptly titled “Street Art Sanctuary ” — a spacious  graffiti/street art haven that Menace and Resa also host as an Airbnb. 

When and where did you first get up? And what inspired you to do so?

Resa: I started in 2015. The first wall I ever did was in the Bronx, but I painted mostly in Brooklyn at the time – often in Bushwick. What inspired me to? While I was living in Flushing, I used to regularly ride past 5Pointz on the 7 train. I thought it was all so amazing. I remember thinking, “Why would someone do this?” But it was awhile before I actually did it!   The sense that I had something to prove – that a female could create artwork on the same level as any established male artist — also drove me.

Menace: I was in the 7th grade in a local Queens public school. I was always drawing on my desk — anime at the time. One of the kids sitting next to me said I’d be good at graffiti. He introduced me to graffiti, encouraged me and invited me to join his crew, BTC. That was the beginning. I was 12 years old.

You’ve both painted in both illegal and in sanctioned places. Which do you prefer?

Illegal. Painting “without permission” is far more validating!

Have you exhibited your work in gallery settings?

The streets are our gallery.

What about the increasing engagement of street artists and graffiti writers with the corporate world? Would you consider such a collaboration?

It depends. No one can dictate to us what can or cannot do.

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

Our job is to bridge it! It’s all about respect.

What is your main source of income?

Painting commissions.

Did you have you a formal art education?

Resa: I did not attend a specialized art college, but at Binghamton, I majored in both Art History and Studio Art. I will always remain grateful to the late Professor George Dugan for his support and encouragement.

Menace: I studied Graphic Design in college, but I never graduated.

How does your family feel about your passion for art?

Resa: My mom initially fostered it. She enrolled me in art classes when I was eight years old. But then when I wanted to go to an art college, her response was, “You’re too smart to be an artist.” And so she encouraged me to go into the art business. But after interning at Christy’s and working for a collector, I came to understand that the art market is driven by billionaires. I know now that I want to focus on creating my own art and not marketing other artists to the richest 1 per cent. And at this point, my mom understands and respects what I’m doing.

Menace: They intensely disliked my passion for graffiti. I was often getting into graffiti-related trouble in school, and any time my parents saw me writing graffiti, they’d scream at me.  They couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t just “draw something pretty.” My father and I fought just about every day. But my parents have since come to accept me. It helped that in honor of our mothers we painted a mural featuring a tiger mom embracing her cub for the Boogie Down event at the Bronx Zoo for Mothers Day, 2018.

When you paint in public spaces, do you work with a sketch-in-hand or just let it flow?

We generally work with Photoshop mock-ups.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece? 

Generally, we are.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

100 %.

Have you any other interests or passions?

Resa: Not many.

Menace: Video games.

Are there any particular cultures that have inspired your aesthetic?

Hip-hop and New York flavor, in general.

Who are some of your favorite artists? Artists who have inspired you?

Resa: There are so many – BK Foxx, Royyal Dog, El Mac, Meres, Jerms, Topaz, Seen, Skeme

Menace:Reach Eight, Glossblack, Revok, Saber, MSK

How has your work evolved in recent years?

It’s gotten much better. While touring the country, we felt we had to prove something at each stop!

In your cross-country venture — #paintloveacrossamerica — you hit several key cities from Philly to LA painting a range of spectacular murals — some with permission and others without. Does any particular memory stand out?

When we had reached LA, we asked an established street art organization to help us find a legal wall. When assistance didn’t come our way, we found — on our own — one of the largest walls in the heart of the LA  arts district. When the cops rolled up, we didn’t know what to expect, but they expressed appreciation for our work. And when the owner came by, we convinced him that we are in the process of beautifying his property. The final mural — one of our favorite ones — is a visual representation of our collective prayers.

No doubt that what hat you painted was a gift  — however ephemeral — to the city!  What’s ahead?

More painting, of course! And our ultimate goal is to create a community center that serves as a base for us to teach painting and mural-making skills to others.

That sounds wonderful! And thanks for sharing your talents and visions with so many of us.

Images:

1 “Madonna Menace” in Bushwick, JMZ Walls

2 Close-up of Resa and Menace captured at work in Bushwick, JMZ Walls

3 “What a Wonderful World,” portrait of Louis Armstrong, in Esst Harlem, GrandScale Mural Project

4 “When the whole world is silent/Even one voice becomes powerful,” portrait of Malala in Bushwick

5 “Believe in the Reality of Your Dreams,” in Bushwick

6 “Real Eyes Realize Real Lies,” portrait of Tupac in Wynwood

7 “Protect,” Unsanctioned mural in LA’s arts district

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits: 1-3 Lois Stavsky; 4 & 5 Ana Candelaria; 6 & 7 Courtesy of  Menace and Resa

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Launched by artists and arts educators Max Frieder and Joel Bergner aka Joel Artista, Artolution is a community-based public art initiative with the goal of promoting healing and positive social change through collaborative art making. For two weeks last month, Artolution directors, Max Frieder and Joe Artista — along with members of the local community — worked with LGBTQ+ students from NYC’s Harvey Milk High School and with students facing such challenges as autism and down symdrome from the Manhattan School of Career Development. The results are remarkable!

Planning session in progress

Young artists at work

Discarded objects become not only an art installation, but musicial instruments, as well

Segment of final mural

Completed mural

A cause for celebration

The mural can be seen on 5th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues in the East Village.

Photos by Tara Murray

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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lamkat

This past summer, a distinctly elegant mural surfaced on the streets of Williamsburg by Brooklyn-based artist LAMKAT. Last week, I had the opportunity to meet up with the talented artist and find out a bit about her.

When did you first share your vision in a public space?

The very first time I painted outdoors was this past June in Krakow, Poland.  It was in collaboration with Marcin Kowalik and sponsored by Galeria Dystans.  I loved the experience, and was instantly inspired to continue painting outdoors.

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 Were you always conscious of street art? Have you any favorite street artists?

Yes! I was always aware of it and I’ve always loved it! Among my favorite street artists are Bogota-based Gauche — whom I met in Berlin — and Li-Hill.

Can you tell us something about your particular aesthetic? What inspires it?

My father’s black and white photography has been a huge inspiration. He’s the one that taught me the importance of perspective and depth, both visually and as a way of observing life.  And I’m inspired by math.

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Are there any particular cultures that have influenced it?

My Chinese heritage plays a role, and growing up in Texas, I was influenced by Mexican culture.

Do you prefer working alone or collaborating with others?

Both! I like working alone, and I love collaborating. This summer I collaborated with One Thousand Birds, a commercial sound studio. We created interactive sound murals that were featured at Likeminds Camp, a creative and tech conference set in the middle of the woods in Beacon, NY.

lamkat-interactive-sound-mural

Have you a formal art education?

I started with Fine Arts, but I then studied Advertising and Art Direction at The University of Texas at Austin. And I earned a degree in Communication Design from The University of North Texas.

Do you feel that your formal education benefited you?

It did when I worked in advertising. It taught me about the relationship between art and business…how to turn art into a business.

lamkat-street-art-shutter-100-gates-nyc

Now that you are now longer focused primarily on advertising, what is the main source of your income? 

My art still is — through commissions — in such venues as restaurants — and also through my work as an illustrator.

Your illustrations — as evident in the gate you recently painted for the 100 Gates Project — certainly exude a different feeling than your huge abstract murals!

Yes! I’ve always loved drawing birds, robots and goofy characters!

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

I do have an initial sketch.

How do you generally feel when your piece is finished?

I feel happy and sad at the same time! I’m happy, of course, that it’s completed, but I love painting so much that I feel sad that it’s over!

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

It is to bring a sense of vibrancy to our environment.

What’s ahead?

The interactive sound mural from Beacon will be at the Art Mart, 395 Johnson Avenue, at Bushwick Open Studios (ed.note: beginning today through Sunday); I will also be selling my smaller-scale works there. On October 20th, I will be participating in a skate deck show at Fillin Global, 160 Bowery. I’m also scheduled to paint next month up in the Bronx at the BMX Park. And in late October, I’m heading to Austin.

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It sounds great! Good luck with it all!

Photo credits: 1 Tara Murray; 2-8 courtesy of the artist; interview conducted and edited 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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