Vanishing Treasures: Restoring Harlem’s Murals

harlem mural artist unknown (my face)

Harlem is home to many amazing murals like the one pictured here.  Efforts are underway to ensure the murals are preserved even as neighborhoods change.

For example, a group has begun an effort to restore some of East Harlem’s murals starting this Saturday 9/11 with “Dos Alas,” which translates as “Two Wings” in English.  The event will include some of the original artists from an art collective known as the Ricanstruction Netwerk, members of the now defunct youth organization Puerto Rico Collective and the general public.  The plan is to restore the mural and to recreate the spirit in which it was painted.  Local musicians and advocacy groups will also do outreach at the event.

Efforts such as these are being spearheaded by several groups including East Harlem Preservation and Liberation Artists Making Action.  The group is named after Puerto Rican labor organizer, feminist and anarchist Luisa Capetillo, and includes political rapper Not4Prophet, artist and musician Xen Medina.

In Central Harlem, Franco Gaskin, better known as “Franco the Great,” is fighting to preserve the remaining murals he painted along the corrugated gates of stores along 125th Street.

Harlem's Guernica?

Preserving New York City’s many outdoor murals is difficult.  The murals are often exposed to the elements for years using materials that are not meant to withstand New York’s climate and on structures that come and go.  Nonetheless, organizations including Rescue Public Murals is working to save them.

Perhaps the best call to action are selected quotes from those in the trenches:

  • “These murals make a statement about gentrification. They were created in spaces that were vacant, empty lots. The lots were covered with cinder block walls.”
  • “Outdoor murals are a very fragile public art form. We know they are vulnerable to the weather, structural issues with the building, leaks, they can get razed or if they are facing a vacant lot, a building can rise up and hide the mural.”
  • “The murals are a way of looking what’s happening in a community at a particular point or time.  They are a window to the unofficial history of the neighborhood. Whether people are celebrating or protesting, it’s about what’s going on in the neighborhood.”

For a good read check out the resources below.

2 Responses to Vanishing Treasures: Restoring Harlem’s Murals

  1. in2harlem says:

    I love the murals in Harlem and I’m glad there is an effort to preserve them. The art is so important!

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