Graffiti artists color Mott Haven for International Mural Festival
A Miami-based arts collective spent several days in early October helping to enliven a bleak section of Mott Haven by painting murals commissioned by the city.
2Alas, comprised of graffiti artists Alex Antonaccio and Filio Galvez, splashed their stuff on an underpass at 138th Street and Park Avenue as part of MonumentArt, a project sponsored by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, to bring public art to El Barrio and the South Bronx. The speaker said her aim is to encourage young people to become engaged in the arts, and to bridge the cultural gap between the United States and Puerto Rico.
The street art is part of International Mural Festival, an initiative that brought artists from the US, Puerto Rico, Latin America, South Africa, and Belgium together in five locations around the city for four days of painting. The festival partnered with local schools to provide students with the opportunity to learn from artists and community based organizations.
“East Harlem and the South Bronx have a history of murals and they’re really part of the local culture,” said Mark-Viverito. “I think this is a way to affirm that, despite pressures that may exist, you want to respect the history of local communities and muralism is a part of that.”
While painting a photograph of the legendary South Bronx gang, the Young Lords, Galvez pointed out another mural across the street on the other side of the underpass at 138th where he and his partner were painting their mural. It was a painted image of a photograph of the renowned hip-hop collective, the Rock Steady Crew.
“Put those pictures outside so people don’t have to go to a museum to see it. It’s in a public space so everyone is exposed to it,” he said.
Painting these murals in the South Bronx taps into the area’s rich history of innovative graffiti, hip-hop and break dancing, dating back to the 1970s and ‘80s, said Antonaccio.
A special visitor who had come to see what the artists were up to, came with a personal interest in the murals. The visitor was Crazy Legs, a member of the Rock Steady Crew, who said the new art would help imbue people from the neighborhood with a sense of pride, he said.
“People are happy when they see things like this,” he added. “It makes them feel like yeah we’re coming up.”