Art / Environment

Young artists take aim at a concrete wall

Young people painted on canvas at The Point CDC in August.

Muralists look to brighten Produce Market barrier with art

A group of young people hopes to leave its artistic mark on a part of Hunts Point not usually noted for its aesthetic appeal: The Terminal Produce Market.

After spending the summer working with fitted canvases, the 14- to-23-year-olds plan to hang their work over the half-mile-long concrete wall on Halleck St. that separates the 40-plus businesses inside the Market’s cavernous complex from the rest of Hunts Point.

“It’s a four-block-long wall; it’s really meant to have a lot of stuff,” said Carey Clark, art director at The Point Community Development Corp., adding the idea of making the wall more appealing had been raised at community meetings.

The city constructed the concrete wall on Edgewater Road in 2006, to replace a barbed-wire topped, 10-foot high metal fence, as part of the initial phase of the South Bronx Greenway.

Past efforts to brighten the austere area with colorful murals that exhibit a dreamy, fantasy quality, have been part of a broader “Village of Murals” project. But although murals adorn warehouse walls and the sides of buildings around the industrial waterfront, getting the decision-makers in the powerful Terminal Market to agree to spruce up their facade has not been easy. Although Clark has received preliminary approval, Co-op officials have yet to issue a final OK.

Kristina Pugh, 28, a photographer who taught the summer class at ICP at The Point where the students worked on their pieces, is hopeful the young artists will soon get the go-ahead. When the class began, she and the group trekked down to the Market to look at the wall, its surrounding industries and the endless caravan of trucks. The bleakness inspired Pugh to have her students depict healthy relationships in their art pieces, to counterbalance the area’s harshness.

Mario Bermudez, 22, worked on a two-panel display depicting truck traffic, with images of mass-transit and less environmentally harmful transportation models.

“The pollution in Hunts Point is terrible. But a lot of people have been fighting it in the past, and that’s change in its own way,” said the college student.

19-year-old Ashana Petersen and other students collaborated to paint a mural of a woman sitting with her legs crossed, encased by a pyramid of fruit, on one of the largest segments, a 6′ by 6′ square.

“Our message to girls is that your body is powerful–keep it healthy and clean,” said Petersen.

Javier Collazo, 19, explored women’s relationship to society.

“I like playing with messages,” said the criminal justice major at Borough of Manhattan Community College. He used spray paint to illustrate an eight-foot-tall woman in sunglasses and business attire, holding a sign with a line through the phrase “It’s a man’s world.”

“The young kids are interested in graffiti, in how you break down structures and turn ideas into art,” said Collazo, who showed the others how to use spray paint. He said the many murals in and around Hunts Point have inspired him since he was 12, adding that, unlike graffiti, they have the capacity to depict “bigger than life things.”

Local artist and mural painter Alejandra Delfin, 47, pointed out that the internationally renowned artists who comprise TatsCru, the collective centered at The Point, “have been graffiti artists since they were 13, 14-years-old.”

Mural art continues to be an important artistic outlet for young people, she added.

“For the kids it’s an amazing experience, for them to work on a large scale. It’s a sense of pride for them to say ‘I did this and it’s going to be exhibited in the street.’”

Clark said that even if the Produce Market opts not to brighten its wall with the murals, she will find a place for the new art somewhere in the neighborhood, preferably on the walls of industrial buildings elsewhere on the industrial watefront.

“It’s important for art to be everywhere, especially in places that are not beautiful,” Clark said.

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