2010-04-07 / Features

Murals Are Creative Solution To Graffiti Plague

A mural by Polish artist M-City covers one of three walls at the intersections of 30th Avenue, 12th Street and Welling Court in Astoria. Photo Jonathan Ellis A mural by Polish artist M-City covers one of three walls at the intersections of 30th Avenue, 12th Street and Welling Court in Astoria. Photo Jonathan Ellis Graffiti is a problem in Astoria as in many parts of New York City. It is hoped that a new law that will soon go into effect, making graffiti removal easier and faster, will help to get many tagged areas taken care of. However, some residents of Astoria have found a different and more artistic solution to the problem than simply painting over the urban blight.

At the intersections of 30th Avenue, 12th Street and Welling Court, the broad walls of a school bus depot and Mira Auto Body Repair Shop make alluring targets for graffiti vandals. Residents from the area got together and asked for the help of Ad Hoc Art Gallery, a “creative fulcrum… dedicated to showing work that is often marginalized by the larger New York art scene”, to find muralists to cover the walls with their art. Gallery owner Garrison Buxton and his wife, Allison, jumped at the opportunity and began contacting renowned muralists from all over the world. The response was immediate. Within just a few weeks, M-City, a gifted Polish muralist, arrived in town to paint the first of the available walls, making the work his American debut. Just before Christmas 2009, M-City completed one large expanse of wall belonging to the bus depot in only three days, relying on the aid and support of Welling Court residents who provided lodging and paint. The artist worked for free. As with many street muralists, M-City generally asks no pay for this kind of work, just permission from the walls’ owners and donation of any supplies, food and other kinds of assistance that can be offered.

As the weather grows warmer in the springtime, Ad Hoc Art has arranged to have a series of other artists paint the three remaining walls that flank the entrance of Welling Court. Though the agreement with M-City was that he could design and paint his wall however he wanted (he did provide a sketch first of how the completed wall would look), the subsequent murals will be designed with some input from Welling Court residents. Jonathan Ellis, a homeowner on the street and one of the promoters of the project, said, “I love seeing the transformation in the neighborhood, using walls that were previously claimed by taggers, now becoming works of art, and I want to see more.” Ellis is encouraging his neighbors to offer their ideas and images from their countries for incorporation in the designs of the artists who will be doing the walls in the spring. One neighbor suggested an image of the Parthenon.

Local resident George Paschalidis, who found M-City’s mural a little “radical”, said he hoped for something “more relaxing” on the rest of the walls. Mostly, however, the reaction to M-City’s painting has been very positive. Vanessa Jones-Hall of the Two Coves Community Garden, just across the street from the mural, called it “an eye pleasing site”. Mia Vlah, also a member of Two Coves, commented, “I walked by the mural on 30th Ave. recently and it makes that area look so much more welcoming and like a friendly neighborhood, rather than the somewhat neglected stretch it felt like before. It is great that people are taking charge of making their own neighborhood more friendly and welcoming rather than waiting for the government to do something about the graffiti. Sometimes it takes local activism to make people see a problem ever existed.”

–Georgina Young-Ellis

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