Thursday, May 21, 2015

The 191st Street Tunnel is Now Filled With Art For Your Commute!

If you live in uptown Manhattan / Washington Heights and use the 191st 1 train your commute just became much better!  
The 191st Street tunnel which connects Saint Nicholas Ave. with Broadway is now home to five dazzling, giant murals that lines the 900 foot walkway with color and style.   The NYC Department of Transportation showed off its latest "street beautification project" although this "street" is actually a tunnel.  I went the second it was open to the public and heard the clapping from walkers before I even hit the tunnel area, kids and plenty of grown ups walking through were actually cheering!
Previously this was a dark, grim "cave" however, besides installing new LED lights, the DOT commissioned the murals, selecting four artists and one artist team out of 150 applicants. (Outside art professionals, including Sandra Betancourt from the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance and street artist Alan Ket, were on the committee.) By the way, the DOT is in charge because the tunnel is classified as a street.
Queen Andrea
Artists you will see from the Broadway side are Andrea von Bujdoss "Queen Andrea" with inspiration phrases and affirmations entitled "Prismatic Power Phrases," to cheer up walkers, her brilliant style looks effortless.  And, a piece by WANE also welcomes you.  Next you will find stripes and shapes entitled"Caterpeillar Time Travel," by Jessie Unterhalter and Katey Truhn and Nelseon Rivas "El Cekis," (who I had the pleasure of finally meeting both teams as they were finishing up work on their pieces, photos below.)  His piece is entitled "It's Like A Jungle/Aveces Es Como Una Jungle."   Keep walking to "Warp Zone" by Nick Kuszyk's piece with colorful loops and ending with the master Fernando Carlo "Cope2" who is known throughout the world as one of the first and best graffiti "masters."  His piece is appropriately entitled "Art Is Life." 

The teams put in 21 hour days, for many days to complete the project in which Community Board 12 chair George Fernandez Jr. called the tunnel a "jewel" for Washington Heights.  He adds the hard work the board, DOT and community put into transforming it from being "scary" to its current state of beauty is to be preserved.  . Thinking of defacing this?!  Just don't do it!  Fernandez cautioned, "Please do not deface the tunnel... Do not do your ups or bombings.  If you are caught, you will be arrested and prosecuted. We want this tunnel to stay beautiful."  Rightfully so.  This was tons of work for the artists and needs to be respected.  Enjoy your commute!
COPE2 (above/below)
Nick Kuszyk
El Cekis
 Queen Andrea
Above: WANE
Jessie Unterhalter and Katey Truhn 
POW! And there you have it.  Visit the tunnel at 19st Street / 1 train stop.
(If you'd like to use any of these photos, please just ask and credit Leanna Valente 
properly.  If you just take them, it won't be pretty!)