Funqest

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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This is the 14th in a series of occasional posts featuring the range of faces that have surfaced in NYC open spaces. The image featured above was painted by Fumero in Astoria, Queens for the Welling Court Mural Project, curated by Ad Hoc Art. Several more follow:

Danielle Mastrion  for Underhill Walls in Prospect Heights, curated by Jeff Beler

Nile Onyx for Underhill Walls in Prospect Heights, curated by Jeff Beler

Indie 184 on the Ridge Wall on the Lower East Side, curated by 212 Arts

Funqest for Underhill Walls in Prospect Heights, curated by Jeff Beler

Albertus Joseph for Underhill Walls in Prospect Heights, curated by Jeff Beler

Anthony Lister with the L.I.S.A Project NYC in Lower Manhattan

Photo credits: 1 Karin du Maire aka Street Art Nomad;  2 -7 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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"Tats Cru"

Founded by John Matos aka Crash and Robert Kantor and directed by Anna Matos, WallWorks NY is a wonderful new gallery space at 39 Bruckner Boulevard in the South Bronx. While visiting its current  — and final — unofficial exhibit, Open Gallery, we had the opportunity to speak to Anna.

"anna matos"

When did WallWorks NY open?

We had our first “unofficial” opening exhibition, First Taste, on September 12.  Its focus was on promoting street art and graffiti as a viable art form within galleries and museums. Among the many local and international artists whose works were featured were: Daze, Futura, Nick Walker, Stash and TATS CRU members: Bio, Nicer and BG 183. This was followed by Point. Focus. Click. featuring photos – that had never been exhibited before — by such photographers as Henry Chalfant, Martha Cooper, Joe Conzo, David Gonzalez, Lisa Kahane, Francisco Reyes II and Ricky Flores.

Such

This current exhibit, Open Gallery, introduces us to many new artists.

Yes. It’s our final show before our official opening next month.  Along with works by emerging local artists in Open Gallery, are artworks in various media by artists from around the country – many of whom had never exhibited their works in a gallery setting before.

Buz163

How have these “unofficial” openings gone?

The response has been great. And the success that we’ve achieved so far is more than we could have imagined!

Why did you choose to open a gallery in the South Bronx?

Why not the South Bronx? Its history is so rich, and hopefully we will encourage people to visit it.

Funest

What is WallWork’s NY’s mission?

In the experimental and explorative vein of Fashion MODA, we want to exhibit new and exciting work from both emerging and established artists.

How did this space come to be?

My father, Crash, had dreamed for a long time of opening a gallery, and I loved the idea of directing one. On our trips into the city, we repeatedly passed this empty space on Bruckner Boulevard – that we saw as a potential site for a gallery.  After discussing it with an art dealer in Paris last summer, my father said, “Let’s do it!” And then a partnership with entrepreneur Robert Kantor made it possible for my father to realize his dream.

"John Paul O'Grodnick"

What experiences and skills do you bring to your position as gallery director?

I grew up around art. As a child, I regularly accompanied by father to his studio – where I would sit and draw. For a long time, in fact, I thought I would be an artist. But as a senior in high school, I discovered that I was more interested in the concepts behind the art than in creating art. I then majored in Art History with a double minor of Philosophy and Black Studies at Fairfield University, and after graduating from college, I studied Art Business at FIT.  And in addition to several internships, including one as Special Project Manager the Jonathan LeVine Gallery, I served as a liaison for my father, assisting him in everything from creating a strong social media presence to installing and selling art. I see myself as someone who is committed to each artist’s personal development and financial success — as well as to the success of the gallery.

"Stephanie Burr"

What’s ahead?

Our official launch takes place on next Saturday, January 10, with Ikonoklasts, featuring never-before-seen works by three legendary NYC artists: A-One, Dondi White and Rammallzee. Following Ikonoklasts will be our first solo show featuring works on canvas by Nicer of TATS CRU.

That sounds wonderful! We are looking forward!

Interview conducted by City-as-School intern Zachariah Messaoud and edited by Lois Stavsky; photos by Lois Stavsky

Photos

1. TATS CRU

2. Anna Matos, gallery director

3. Such Styles

4. Buz163

5. Funqest

6. John Paul O’Grodnick

7. Stephanie Burr

Note: Open Gallery continues until January 7 at 39 Bruckner Boulevard in the Bronx.

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