Greenpoint – unstoppable power of Concrete Alchemy
Saturday, May 17th, 2008 - The original plan for the weekend is to stay in New Jersey and work on a wall in Princeton, NJ. In addition to the wall, a public discussion is organized by the Arts Council of Princeton that features artists from Concrete Alchemy. Unfortunately, we receive bad news that the mural is cancelled at the last minute. Now, we can either spend the weekend relaxing or find an alternative space that could be painted.
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It is an unfortunate development, but it doesn’t derail our fast moving train. Princeton is a great representation of what is currently happening in small towns. After long years of downtowns falling apart, the little towns are waking up trying to attract more business and life to their main streets and town centers. The intention is right, but usually dictated by financial resources rather than creativity. Though art is welcomed, it is usually looked at only as entertainment and space filler.
It is easy to find wall space and excited supporters who allow us to do our work, but we often run into obstacles. In most cases they are the city halls who dictate how the town is supposed to look like. And it is hard to crack decades-old rules to accommodate something as innovative as the work of Concrete Alchemy. At least we know that we are being original. Usually our patience pays off. We will see how long it will take to get an invitation from Princeton to create a mural in that town.
The public discussion at the Arts Council of Princeton is scheduled for Saturday night. We all are still finishing up the wall in Dumbo, but Ricardo Barros, Vyal, Leon Rainbow, Demer, Crol, and Peter drive to Princeton to participate in the panel. It is very friendly and relaxed atmosphere. The artists sit at the front of the room with Ricardo’s images projected behind them. The audience loves them. It is sophisticated audience that has moved beyond the questions such as “what is graffiti” and “is your art illegal?”
These panels are important to educate the public about our work. We are not afraid that they would mistake it for vandalism. Rather, we would like to include them in our process. We would like to have them understand what we do and how they can be involved. Concrete Alchemy is not only about colorful walls. It is about transformation of dull places into exciting organically grown communities. This can be done only with everyone’s interest and involvement.
After the panel, we stick around for a dinner. Though the mood is always very informal and relaxed, serious topics are discussed. Everything from politics of public spaces to logistical details of the tour… After that everyone returns back to the warehouse except Peter who drives back to Dumbo to pick up the rest of the crew.
It is after midnight on Saturday. New York goes crazy at this time, but we all feel like we just got out of the work and we only have enough spare energy to ingest some food. And meantime the decision is made for the next day. Cern lives in Brooklyn and he works intensely with the property and business owners in his neighborhood. He is very prolific and at the same time he manages large wall space. His suggestion involves Greenpoint section of Brooklyn. After the first successful wall in Dumbo, we are all excited and do not want to do nothing but paint and create more murals. The decision is made in a couple of minutes. Concrete Alchemy is staying in Brooklyn for the weekend.
The loose atmosphere of Concrete Alchemy was great advantage for the entire duration of our trip. The artists were presented with a rough schedule, but all detailed decisions were made on the spot. This resulted in a great flexibility and prompt problem-solving.
Sunday is cloudy and cold. First, we all drive up to Dumbo to take some photos during daylight. After a few minutes we rush to the next destination, few more miles up Brooklyn-Queens Expressway to more industrial Greenpoint. The wall is not as high as in Dumbo but it is long and wraps around the corner. The mood is relaxed. This wall is not even on the schedule, yet we all take it very seriously. From the very beginning it is obvious to see that everything we produce on this tour is original and hard to compare to anything that was done previously.
The weather is awful from the very beginning. It is raining all day long. These troopers are used to it and nothing is stopping them. Not even an officer who rolls up on us asking for a permit. Only now I realize that nobody asked for anything like that in Dumbo or anywhere else. Though all walls on the tour were prearranged and permitted, I would expect some kind of control. In the afternoon, the sun comes out and slowly dries us up. By the end of the day, the weather is back to normal, the wall is finished and we all feel good about another alchemized concrete.
Though this wall is not in as hip area as Dumbo, it is a very significant piece. The industrial areas are often separated from the rest of the communities and look terrible. Currently, more and more abandoned factory parks are being converted into condos and residential areas and it is more than necessary to also come up with ways to improve the exteriors of the workspaces. When one walks down the street, he or she shouldn’t feel as being in steel mills rather a park or gallery. And Concrete Alchemy knows how to make the transformation happen.