Joe Ficalora, a life-long resident of Bushwick, refers to himself as an ‘Accidental Curator.’ Ficalora started commissioning the murals as a way to reclaim the neighborhood from the painful memories of his past, including his father’s murder and mother’s death from brain cancer. What began as a neighborhood party in 2011 to raise money for children with brain tumors has turned into a multi-street project where business owners donate their wall space and the artists contribute their time and supplies. There are currently fifty murals and the number is constantly growing. Artists include Sticks, Prut, Nychos, Blek Le Rat, Cost, Mast, Buff Monster, and many more. Be sure to stop by Roberta’s for some of the best pizza you will ever have.
The 100 Gates Project
The 100 Gates Project is the brainchild of Billy Rohan, NYC skateboarder and founder of Samurai. The venture is a collaboration with the Lower East Side Business Improvement District, as a means of turning the neighborhood into an ‘open-air gallery’ that would emerge at night once the local businesses have closed. Artists are paired with businesses, and together they collaborate on the design. There are currently 80 completed gates, and more to come in the spring of 2016.
Bowery & Houston
The corner of Houston and Bowery is a concrete wall slab with a lot of history. In 1982, Keith Haring painted his first mural there, which is considered Haring’s first large-scale public work, prompting his success and ultimate legacy. This wall has been a source of illegal graffiti and various commercial advertisements over the last 20 years. In 2008, Jeffery Deitch and the wall’s owner Tony Goldman began sanctioning murals. They have collaborated with artists including Shepard Fairey, Retna, Kenny Scharf, Nakagawa, Os Gemeos, and many others.
Big Pun Memorial Mural
Since the Bronx Graffiti Wall of Fame has been torn down to accommodate new residential high-rise buildings, Big Pun Memorial Mural has become the go-to site in the Bronx. The famed Tats Cru created the sprawling mural in tribute to Big Pun, the Bronx-born and first Puerto Rican hip-hop artist to go platinum. Every year on Big Pun’s birthday in November, the wall gets an update, making this a destination to continually revisit.
Centre-Fuge Public Art Project
In 2011, Lower East Side residents Jonathan Neville and Pebbles Russell sought to combat the negative impacts of construction sites by transforming the trailers that function as temporary offices into a rotating street gallery. The project began with artists painting the trailer on all visible sides for periods of two months. Five years later, the project is now called Centre-Fuge Public Art Project, with trailers around New York City and Miami. The project has allowed construction sites and transitional spaces to overcome the term ‘eye-sores,’ and has helped to beautify and empower the local neighborhoods.
In the midst of the galleries, shops, and trendy restaurants of the Lower East Side is an easily missed alley leading to the hidden gem, Freemans Restaurant. This tiny alley has a rich history; in 1909, men would form a massive line to receive bread from the Bowery Mission. Off the beaten path, it has since become a canvas for artists including Hanksy, ASVP, Army of One, and many others, since the risk of whitewashing is very low. Currently on view is the colorful pick-me-up, dubbed ‘Love Wall.’
Graffiti Hall of Fame
Founded in 1980 by Ray Rodriguez, a.k.a. ‘Sting Ray,’ the Graffiti Hall of Fame on the playground at the Jackie Robinson Educational Complex was meant to give artists a safe environment to hone their skills and display their talents. 30 years later, the site’s motto is ‘Strictly Kings or Better’ with professional graffiti artists from around the world vying for a precious spot on the wall. While exploring El Barrio, an area of East Harlem rife with cultural history, you will find art on every corner, from yarn-bombed flowers on the chain link fences, to murals celebrating the lives of Latin music legends. Be sure to stop by El Museo del Barrio for even more insight into the neighborhood.
Peter Fischli and David Weiss’ How to Work Better
The Public Art Fund has put up the large-scale mural by the Swiss artist duo, Peter Fischli and David Weiss, in conjunction with their current retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggunheim Museum. The ten-point list of simple statements was appropriated from a sign found on a bulletin board in a ceramic factory in Thailand almost 30 years ago. Since then, the text has taken many different forms including postcards, book covers and large-scale murals. The mural will be on view from February 6th through the first of May, 2016.
Born in Bristol, England, Nick Walker is an established graffiti artist known for his part in the Stencil Graffiti Movement. As an artist-in-residence of the Quin Arts Program at the Quin Hotel in New York, he has established his influence in the United States. Since his residency, he has had sold out shows in London and LA, where collectors waited in line for over 24 hours to be among the first to get the latest print editions. His work often features a dapper gentleman in a bowler hat known as ‘The Vandal.’ In a non-descript parking lot on 17th street, you will find ‘The Vandal’s’ tribute to New York.
Welling Court Mural Project
Since the destruction of 5 Pointz, Welling Court Mural Project has become the go-to destination for graffiti in Queens. In 2009, Welling Court resident Jonathan Ellis connected with Ad Hoc Art to spruce up his neighborhood. Now in its sixth year, there are over 130 murals with a mix of legendary artists and emerging talents. Artists include Abe Lincoln, Jr., Kid Lew, Praxis, Spazecraft, Royal Kingbee, TooFly and more.