Nite Owl

During the past several weeks, over a dozen intriguing murals have surfaced at First Street Green Art Park. Fashioned by local, national and international artists, they reflect a huge range of styles and sensibilities, The now-iconic image featured above is the work of the nomadic Nite Owl. Several more recent additions to First Street Green Art Park follow:

Brazilian artist Panmela Castro at work

NYC-based Marzipan Physics

Brooklyn-based K-NOR 

Cram Concepts and Ratchi NYC

Brazilian artist Binho

Madrid-based Ramón Amorós

First Street Green Art Park is located at 33 East 1st Street, where the Lower East Side meets the East Village.

Photo credits: 1, 3-7 Lois Stavsky; 2 Ana Candelaria

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Launched over 10 years ago, the Lilac Mural Project has evolved into a Mecca of richly diverse street art and graffiti and one of the Mission District’s main attractions. On her recent visit to San Francisco, travel and street photographer Karin du Maire aka Street Art Nomad had the opportunity to speak to Lisa, who – along with her husband, Randolph Bowes – initiated the impressive project.

What spurred you to launch this project? What was its initial mission?

When we first moved into this neighborhood in 2005, it was quite dangerous. It was plagued by gang violence and drug activity. Living in such a tragic setting was having a negative psychological impact on me. I didn’t feel safe. And when I told my husband that I wanted to move, he suggested that we bring in muralists. He saw art as a way to transform the environment.

How did you react to his suggestion?

I thought it was interesting, but I was quite skeptical!

What won you over?

Once Baltimore native CUBA – a classic graffiti artist with wide experience – and Mark Bodē, whom he introduced us to, started to paint here, everyone was eager to join them. We asked permission from the property owners for other artists to paint, and Lilac Alley began to evolve into a safe place. The problem of unsightly graffiti was also solved. And soon we were asked to curate neighboring alleys.

How did you finance all of this early on?

When we first started, we would pay for the paint, food and transportation for about 30 artists. But as the project grew, it started to become cost prohibitive. When we told the artists that we could no longer afford to pay for their products, they assured us that they were just happy to have a place to paint safely.

Can you tell us something about your gallery, Mission Art 415? When did you launch it and why? 

My background is in interior design and fine art, and I’ve worked in fine art galleries. So when this gallery space became available about three years ago, it seemed like a natural fit. And because San Francisco is so expensive and so many artists are struggling to survive here, the gallery gives them an opportunity to sell their art and earn some income. All that I ask from the artists is a 10% commission, and I’ve established contacts with international collectors. I also get commissioned murals for artists — such as Mark BodēNite Owl and Crayone — from local businesses.

What about this neighborhood? How has it changed since you’ve moved here?

Rents are continually increasing, and older businesses are being run out. And there’s been increasing tensions between the members of the long-time Latino community and the newer residents.

Do you have the same issue that we are are having in NYC – particularly in Bushwick – where ad agencies are replacing murals with ads by offering money to local businesses for use of their walls?

No! I have not had that happen. I actually approach businesses. When I see their buildings or storefronts tagged, I remind the owners that they can get fined for that, and I offer to connect them with great muralists who can get their signage up on their buildings – graffiti style.

What are some of the challenges you face in curating both a gallery and a mural project that has grown to cover 14 blocks?

The huge costs of running a business, along with the local politics, are the main challenges. I love what I do, but I am always working!

Images:

1 Mark Bode

2 Crayone

3 Twick ICP

4  Mission Art 415 Gallery

5 Nite Owl

Interview conducted by Karin du Maire and edited and abridged by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits: 1, 4 & 5 Karin du Maire; 2 & 3 courtesy the Lilac Mural Project

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Phetus-mural-art-close-up-glen-cove

A remarkable museum, featuring the artwork of dozens of street artists, muralists, graffiti writers and bombers, is underway in the least likely spot –a 300-year-old historic Glen Cove, Long Island mansion. While visiting this designated city landmark last week, I had the chance to speak to Sean Sullivan aka Layer Cake, who is actively engaged in the transformation of this 9000-square foot site that was once home to one of the five founding families of the city of Glen Cove.

This is remarkable? Whose concept was this?

Joe LaPadula — known among us for his fabulous cutting-edge urban art car projects — knew about this site and saw its potential to serve as a platform to introduce his favorite art form to the public.

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How did you become involved with it?

I did a Ferrari hood for Joe’s project, and we discovered that we share a similar vision. And then I involved Harris Lobel who has done a great job overseeing the Drip Project in Mount Vernon’s Mes Hall.

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This home is the centerpiece of the First City Project – which has also engaged artists in painting in public spaces. What is the goal of this project?

There are many. The First City Project‘s principal goal is introduce the residents of the City of Glen Cove and surrounding communities to the next generation of urban-themed artists.

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When did the transformation of this site begin?

The actual painting began on May 2. I was, in fact, the first artist to paint here.

ellisG-urban-art-glen-cove

There is such a wildly diverse mix of art here. How were you able to engage such a variety of artists?

At first I reached out to those I know and like. And then it was a matter of word of mouth, as artists connected to one another.

Chris-easy-zero-productivity-graffiti-glen-cove

What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered in seeing this through?

Working with such a varied range of artists with so many different personalities is, in itself, a challenge. But immediate ones that come to mind are: artists not showing up on time; having to stay up far too late and the inevitable politics that comes with it all.

Pase-graffiti-Glen-Cove

What’s ahead for the First City Project?

Live art events, gallery exhibits, more outdoor mural projects that engage the community — particularly the youth — student art classes and more.

It’s very exciting! Good luck with it all! And we look forward to news about upcoming events.

Images:

1. Phetus

2. Such

3. Reaps

4. Sean Sullivan aka Layer Cake

5. Ellis G

6. Chris RWK, Nite Owl, Zero Productivity and Easy

7. Pase

Photos and interview 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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