Our view from Stillwell Terminal of Surf Avenue is changing again. On Thursday afternoon, we were riveted by a series of photos tweeted by “No Longer Empty” from Coney Island. Whimsical and sophisticated murals of faces, fish, water, beach-goers and divers were blossoming on Thor Equities blue construction fence. At the same time, Coney Island photographer Bruce Handy took a series of photos of the murals, which he posted on flickr.
NLE’s Facebook page explains, “Partnering with the Economic Development Corporation, No Longer Empty brought in OverUnder and Veng and Ephameron to brighten the streetscape in Coney Island.”
Based on the work at Ephameron’s website, she’s the woman contemplating her work in the above photo. The old-fashioned looking faces were painted by Veng, who says he borrows from techniques of the Northern Renaissance and looks to capture the feel of something made long ago. Sorry, We’re Clothed
appears to be OverUnder’s work. (Veng has since confirmed that our guess was correct!) There’s a piece about the artist on the blog Brooklyn Street Art which describes him as “an illustrator, painter, and text writer.”
We’re thrilled to see Art instead of “Post No Bills” on Thor’s fence. It’s a good solution to distract people’s attention from the construction fence and the empty lot where the century-old Henderson stood. But we have to wonder if Joe Sitt is paying the artists or reimbursing the City for the cost? Construction has been delayed on the site because the DOB “DISAPPROVED” the building plans as many as 16 times over the past six months. As we have noted many times, Sitt evicted amusement operators from Stillwell in 2007 to “allow the new development to proceed in a timely manner,” but has built NOTHING here except a failed flea market in 2009.
Last April, the Coney Island Development Corporation installed fence wraps advertising Coney’s attractions on the City’s then-empty parcels on the Boardwalk side of Stillwell. Since Thor Equities Stillwell lots had remained vacant, the CIDC got permission to install the wraps on Thor’s property as well. The advertising campaign did a good job of hiding what remained of Thor’s tent structures from 2009’s failed flea market. Empty No Longer’s murals will hide Thor’s newest empty lot.
Who is “No Longer Empty”? According to their website…
No Longer Empty (NLE) is a comprised of arts advocates, curators and artists who orchestrate public art exhibitions in vacated storefronts and properties in New York City. The non-profit organization was conceived as an artistic response to our present economic condition and to revitalize empty spaces and areas around the venues by bringing thoughtful, high-caliber art installations with accompanying programs to the public.
Locating art in unexpected places in the public domain suggests new models of community art that are different from major institutions and galleries. Committed to art as a positive component for community and cultural development, No Longer Empty conducts outreach into the community to contribute meaningfully and bolster the local businesses through the increased flow of visitors that these exhibitions attract and by arranging programs such as panel discussions, music and performance evenings, children’s workshops, artist conversations and more.
These exhibitions could not have happened without the vacant spaces being generously donated rent-free by the landlords. The exhibitions and art chosen or created are site specific in the sense that they reflect such issues as the former use or history of the site, the nature of the neighborhood and, of course, the specific features of the space. Both established and emerging artists have been selected for the exhibitions, benefiting our audiences with rich variety and discovery.
In regard to reflecting such issues as the former use or history of the site, there may be some ghosts that need to be appeased. ATZ recommends that NLE and the artists view historian Charles Denson’s video tribute to the Henderson Theater, the recently demolished vaudeville house that occupied the site for a century. How about a visual “tip of the hat” to Harpo Marx, who made his stage debut here as one of “The Four Nightingales” with his brothers Groucho, Lou and Gummo?
Related posts on ATZ…
October 26, 2010: Studio Visit: Philomena Marano of the Coney Island Hysterical Society
October 26, 2010: Studio Visit: Richard Eagan of the Coney Island Hysterical Society
January 25, 2010: Bruce Handy’s Photo Album: Doomed Dreamland Artist Club Mural