community art

Working with yarn, Carmen Paulino aka Carmen Community Artist has been busily bringing intriguing images and timely messages to the streets of East Harlem and beyond. I was delighted to recently meet her and find out a bit about her:

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

Back in 2015, I did live painting outdoors with members of my East Harlem community. And then in 2018, I began yarn-bombing. I’d been working with yarn for years, but only then did I get it out in public.

What inspired you to do so at the time?

I had participated in an exhibition of fiber art at El Barrio Art Space. And I was suddenly inspired to take my art outside. I saw it as a way to beautify my community. I love East Harlem, and I wanted to add color to my neighborhood.

Were there any particular artists who inspired you to get your vision out on the streets?

Yes! Two particular artists who stand out are: Naomi Lawrence aka Naomi Rag – who’s been active in East Harlem now for several years – and the Philadelphia-based yarn bomber Nicole Nikolich aka Lace in the Moon.

Do you generally have permission to install your artwork?

Yes! I always know someone who has some connection to the site.

What is the attitude of your friends and family to what you are doing?

They are all proud of me!

What is your main source of income?

In 2014, I began working as a teaching artist in community centers, hospitals and senior centers. But for the past three years, I’ve worked mostly with seniors – and I love it! They are a constant source of inspiration.

Besides crafting with yarn and teaching art, have you any other particular interests?

I love to paint. I had a phenomenal teacher — when I was a student at Richard Green High School — who encouraged me, and I’ve been painting ever since.

Do you prefer working alone or collaborating with others?

I enjoy doing both. I’ve recently collaborated with Alisha aka Little Nugget Workshop, Viviana Rambay and Glenys Rivas.

Have you a formal art education?

No. I’m essentially self-taught. I learned my craft from my grandmother and mother.

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetic?

Spanish culture – Indigenous, Latin American, Colombian.

Have you exhibited your work in a gallery setting?

Yes. I’m actively involved with the El Barrio Art Space.

Early in the pandemic many of your pieces expressed gratitude to the essential workers and urged folks to stay home. More recently your artworks have been focusing on the importance of voting in the upcoming election. What inspires your pieces?

I’m inspired by the people I meet and what is happening around me. In early spring my pieces were largely inspired by my husband, FDNY EMS Paramedic Michael Paulino — who has been working in the front line — and by all of the essential workers out there who put so much at risk. Current affairs have triggered my newer works.

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

No. I don’t work with a sketch. My work evolves as I create it.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece?

Always!

What do you see as the role of the artist in society? And your role – in particular?

I see the artist as an agent of change. And my role is to bring a sense of peace and safety to my community, while beautifying it.

What’s ahead?

A collaborative memorial for East Harlem victims of Covid-19.

Thank you, Carmen, for all that you do!  I am looking forward to what’s ahead.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photos: 1 & 4, courtesy of the artist; 2, 3, 5 & 6 Lois Stavsky

Note: Photo 3 features a collaboration with Alisha S aka Little Nugget Workshop, and the fourth photo features a collaboration with Alisha S aka Little Nugget Workshop, Viviana Rambay and Glenys Rivas.

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While revisiting Underhill Walls in Prospect Park, Brooklyn this past week, I was greeted by several delightfully intriguing murals that I hadn’t captured on my earlier visit in May. The image featured above was fashioned by Queens-native Jeff Rose, Colombian artist Calicho Arevalo, and Brooklyn-based krassness. Several more artworks from this model community arts-based project, curated and managed by Jeff Beler, follow:

Local artist Justin Winslow’s magical world

Gowanus-based Dylan Bauver‘s geometric Cosmos

 Dylon Thomas Burns offers a glimpse of heaven

Manhattan-based  Marivel Mejia pays homage to our health care workers

Stem YNN and Aloe Adventures take on — in comic book-style — our surreal times as we are “dodgin’ more than corona”

Underhill Walls is located at the corner of St. Johns Place and Underhill Avenue in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

Photo credits: 1 -4 & 6, Lois Stavsky and 5 Sara Ching Mozeson

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For over a decade Welling Court and its surrounding blocks in Astoria, Queens have been a mecca of street art and graffiti, engaging a widely diverse group of artists, the local community, as well as the the general public.  On our recent visit to Astoria, we were delighted to discover several new murals — curated by Alison C. Wallis —  that have surfaced in these trying times on the walls of one of our favorite street art destinations. The image featured above was fashioned by the legendary Chris “Daze” Ellis. Several more murals — painted over the past few weeks — follow:

Bronx-bred El Souls

Lady Pink‘s tribute to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many more whose lives should have never been cut short 

Greg Lamarche aka SP ONE, “Lift Every Voice”

Fumero, “The Glariator” with his name in flames

Bronx-based BG 183, Tats Cru

Queen Andrea, Love Always Wins

John “Crash” Matos and Joe Iurato with a message of LOVE

Also among the new works is a mural fashioned by the legendary John Fekner, to be captured when the sun cooperates!

Photo credits: 1, 6 & 7 Sara Ching Mozeson; 2 – 5 & 8 Lois Stavsky

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While many of the boards in Soho continue to be dismantled, the ones that remain continue to intrigue. And, happily, new ones surface — largely by artists who generally work in their studios — addressing a range of issues from systemic racism to transphobia. The socially-driven artworks featured above were fashioned  a few weeks back by Brooklyn-based artist Jerardo Calixto in collaboration with Sofi ✍ Signs. Several more images captured earlier this week — several in progress — follow:

NYC-based Fabio Esteban with a message

NYC-based Brendan T Mcnally takes a brief break from “Break Free” in progress (check out Brendan’s Instagram to view the now completed mural and its moving backstory)

NYC-based, Moscow native Sofia Granovskaia aka Dr Antic to the right of artist/activist Amir Diop — with an important request and reproach re: his missing artwork

Multidisciplinary artist Matthew Mazur — dedicated to “our Black Trans Brothers and Sisters who were taken from us too soon.”

Native Belarus artist Mitya Pisliak at work

Brooklyn-based, Czechoslovak-born Kamila Zmrzla Otcasek

On racism — signed Scott Woods 

To be continued next week!

Photo credits: 1, 3, 4, 6-8 Lois Stavsky; 2 & 5 Sara Ching Mozeson

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Named for the historical Downtown Newark district in which the mural project is located, the Four Corners Public Arts initiative has brought over a dozen alluring murals to Treat Place and Beaver Street in Downtown Newark — a short work from Newark Penn Station. Referencing the neighborhood and its distinct history, the artworks were conceived and painted largely by local artists.

The mural featured above, a tribute to the late neighborhood legend, Jerry Gant a.k.a 2 Nasty Nas, was painted by Newark-native Manuel Acevedo. Several more murals sponsored by  Four Corners Public Arts — an ongoing collaboration between the City via Invest Newark, the Newark Downtown District (NDD), Newark Arts and local property owners RBH Group and Paramount Assets — follow:

Newark-raised, Brooklyn-based Gera Luz, Sacred Water

Layqa Nuna Yawar and Kelley Prevard in collaboration with A Womb of Violet — a Newark-based Black women’s artist collective –, “Magnitude and Bond”

The Rorshach Art Collective — Newark natives Andre Leon and Robert Ramone, –“Radiance”

Brooklyn-based Armisey Smith, “The Natural World of the Lenape,” to the left of Puerto Rico-born, Paterson-raised  Jo-el Lopez, “The Guardian of the City”

Atlantic City-based Sue Daly in collaboration with The Barat Foundation, “Sewing a Path to Freedom

Newark-based Gabe Ribeiro, “Newark Is for Artists”

Photo credits: 1, 2, 5 & 7 Rachel Fawn Phillips; 3, 4 & 6 Lois Stavsky

Special thanks to Rachel Fawn Phillips for introducing me to this project.

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Organized by Ayana Ayo and coordinated by Kathleena Howie aka Lady K-Fever, Uptown Counts: Art as Activism is an exhibition of artworks by over 20 artists who lent their works to a range of uptown spaces to draw attention to the importance of the 2020 Census, particularly in East Harlem.

The number of East Harlem residents who respond to the 2020 Census will determine how much of the $675 billion in federal dollars the community will receive over the next 10 years — funding essential to schools, housing, healthcare, infrastructure and food assistance.  Yet, only 40 percent of East Harlem residents are predicted to respond to the 2020 Census.

Among the artists featured in the exhibit are several who also use the streets as their canvas.  The image above, “Mother and Child,” painted by East Harlem-resident Marthalicia Matarrita, has found a temporary home at the legendary Sylvia’s Restaurant. A small sampling of  images —  featured in Uptown Counts: Art as Activism —  by artists whose works also surface in public spaces follows:

 Danielle Mastrion, Offering — at Harlem Yoga Studio 

 Lady K-Fever, Justice at Last — at Sisters Caribbean Cuisine 

Royal KingBee, BEE Cautious

MED, Resist

Al Diaz, Flowers Will No Longer Grow…

Because of the pandemic, the spaces hosting the artwork are largely inaccessible for the next several weeks. But you can check out the entire exhibit — sponsored by the nonprofit organization Uptown Grand Central — online here.

And — now — be sure to take the 2020 Census!  It is a political and social justice issue. You can do it online, by phone (844-330-2020) or by mail.

Images and info for this post courtesy exhibition coordinator, Kathleena Howie aka Lady K-Fever

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First Street Green Art Park, one of my favorite spots in town, not only introduces me to a wide range of artists who are new to me, but also showcases works by those who’ve been making their mark on the streets for years. Featured above is a tribute mural to Koby Bryant and his daughter by the richly prolific Fumero. Several more images recently revisited in First Street Art Green Park follow:

The artist couple Bella Phame

Puerto Rico-based Deider Díaz aka ElektroTypes

Detroit-born, NYC-based RF3RD

Harlem-based Roycer aka Royce Bannon

Noted graffiti/street artist Hektad

The itinerant Ratchi with the masterful Cram Concepts

First Street Art Green Park is currently accepting proposals for murals to be installed early next month. Check here for specifics.

Photos of artworks: Lois Stavsky

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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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For three weekends this past month, dozens of artists were at work transforming three blocks of fencing located adjacent to the 125th Street Metro-North into a vibrant, intriguing outdoor gallery. While visiting last weekend, we had the opportunity to pose a few questions to its dynamic curator, Ayana Ayo.

This project is wonderful. We love the way it transforms the neighborhood, while bringing so many folks together to celebrate its renewal. How did you come to curate it?

I work with Carey King, the Executive Director of the Uptown Grand Central — a nonprofit dedicated to transforming East 125th Street and enriching life in East Harlem. I had earlier curated the 100 Gates Project in this neighborhood, and I loved the idea of bringing life to a space that has been vacant for the past ten years.

In addition to beautifying the neighborhood and uplifting its spirit, how would you define this project’s mission?

I was interested in giving an opportunity to artists — many who live uptown – to come together share their visions in a public space. Several of these artists have never painted outdoors before. Others have international reputations. All feel a strong connection to the neighborhood.

Over 50 artists have participated in this project. It’s an amazingly eclectic group. How did you connect with so many talented artists to see this project through?

I sent out a call to artistst describing the project’s mission of transforming “1,500 feet of green construction fencing into a vibrant gateway to Harlem.”  And I spoke to artists I know who, I thought, would be interested in participating in the project. The word got around!

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

Coordinating the schedules of over 50 artists; winning over the local people, so that they felt engaged with the project and having to turn down artists who wanted to participate.

How are you feeling now — that it’s just about complete in time forUptown Grand Central’s third annual street festival, Party on Park?

Over the moon! I am so happy.

What’s ahead?

More opportunities for Uptown Grand Central, as it continues its transformation of East Harlem!

So exciting! And congratulations on the Grand Scale Mural Project! 

Images

1  Ralph Serrano and Anjl at work

2  Curator Ayana Ayo. standing in front of mural by Dister

Anna Lustberg at work

Toofly

Alexis Duque with Shiro to his right

6  Funqest at work

Chris Ayala and Rob Ayala

Interview conducted by Lois Stavsky with Ana Candelaria and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits: 1, 2, 3 & 6 Ana Candelaria; 4, 5 & 7 Lois Stavsky

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Conceived and curated by Ad Hoc Art, the Welling Court Mural Project has been transforming Welling Court and its neighboring blocks in Astoria, Queens for the past decade. Featured above are the works of See One and Hellbent who once again shared their talents with us in this community-driven project. Several more images that Ana Candelaria and I captured this past Sunday follow:

 Roberto Castillo and Kork93

 Jeromy Velasco in memory of the Stonewall Riots’ 50th anniversary —  for NYC Pride with the LISA Project NYC

The legendary Greg Lamarche aka SP.ONE 

Queens-based Free5 captured at work

And an hour later

Never Satisfied

Joe Iurato pays homage to Keith Haring 

Welling Court Mural Project founder and curator Garrison Buxton for NYC Pride with the LISA Project NYC (close-up from huge mural) — and Yes One and more graffiti art below

Photo credits: 1, 4, 6, 9 & 10 Lois Stavsky; 2, 3, 5 & 7 Ana Candelaria 

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