Discovering Street Art in Queens with the Welling Court Mural Project!3 December 2019
To be really honest I was thinking that Brooklyn and the Bushwick Collective was the indisputable temple of New York Street Art! but that was before visiting the Queens! I have to admit that NYC is much richer in Street Art than you can imagine. Especially after visiting the incredible Welling Court Mural Project.
I am sure that the Queens is not a neighborhood that you have planned to visit if you are going to New York. Welling Court is a quiet area of the Queens, of course popular, but mostly too quiet! The inhabitants of this district wanted to transform it to make it more pleasant to live … Palisades, sheds, half-destroyed walls, vacant lots and deserted streets, adding up to the absence of a trader … all these factors turned this district as a dead zone. Locals led by Jonathan Ellis decided to meet the Ad Hoc Art association, a sort of almost revolutionary Think Tank that uses art as a tool for social change. The global project was born in 2009. In 2010, more than 40 frescoes had already been made in the neighborhood! Today, more than 150 artists have their signatures on the walls and every year a festival is held in June to make more and more murals!
In fact, the neighborhood is certainly prettier and more colorful than before, and fantastic for Street Art’s fans; but remains very desert.
All artists from Brooklyn, Bowery and Little Italy gather around the Welling Court Mural Project
I admit, when I arrived on the scene, I did not expect to find the big names of New York Street Art; in fact I did not know very well what to expect, neither in terms of works or atmosphere. Discovering the Street Art in the Queens for a Parisian girl can be experienced as an adventure! The buildings are lower than in Brooklyn and do not leave much room for monumental frescoes! The works are spread on rather low walls, in dead ends and on many shutters! But here we find almost all the artists I told you in my previous articles on New York and it is difficult to know where to start! I made you a small selection of known and recognized artists to start this visit!
What a huge surprise for me to come face to face with a fresco by Queen Andréa ! This artist is super known since she had the honor of putting her signature on the emblematic Houston Bowery Wall in the heart of Manhattan! I did not expect to discover this “Super Fresh” with a great flow in the Queens. Her typography, bright colors and positive messages are recognizable among all. She likes to think that she practices Wall Therapy!
In a totally different style, as you can see on the front cover of this article, I also had the pleasure of seeing the artist Joe Iurato I discovered in Bushwick. He continues tirelessly to paint his son in a very graphic environment; here he is the standard bearer of the Welling Court!
I discovered the work of these two artists in the same area of Manhattan: Bowery. He, Jules Muck, alias Muck Rock is very rock! She, Lexi Bella is very provocative and very “Power Girl”. So I admit, I did not immediately recognize the style of Lexi Bella in the work of this very half-feline half-butterfly’s look . As for Muck Rock it’s a little different; the discretion of his signature on the front of Frida Kahlo leaves no doubt about the author! I just selected it because there is a large Mexican community in Queens and it is true that my visit to Mexico City reminded me how much Frida Kahlo was an important artist for them.
The Street Art in Queens is full of committed messages!
Besides the desert side of the neighborhood; what struck me the most when I arrived at Welling Court was to find the most engaged artists of the Brooklyn Street Art scene. But also artists that I did not know and who militate for immigration, against police burrows, for the rights of women, … We quickly understand while walking around that the inhabitants of this neighborhood are demanding more justice and are engaged with the artists to pass strong messages! sometimes very strong!
Gynnya Mc Millen, depicted on this mural, was a 16-year-old girl who was detained in a juvenile detention center following an altercation with her mother. The next morning she was found dead in her cell. This case became a huge scandal in the United States in 2017 and called into question certain processes of the American prison system. Two Street American Artists Lena Mc Carthy and Caleb Neelon have decided to pay homage to her with a “never forget” objective; and it works because when discovering this fresco I wanted to know who this girl was.
It was a pleasure to meet these two committed Street Artists women I discovered while visiting the Bushwick Collective in Brooklyn. Lmnopi has Indian origins and was living in the forests of northern New York State; threatened forests like many others. She is a great activist and uses her artistic skills to amplify messages for social, economic, racial and climatic justice. Her seemingly sweet works always carry messages.
In a completely different style Sara Erenthal is continually fighting for the liberation of women. Born into an ultra-Orthodox family who tried to marry her by force in Israel when she was a minor; Sara Erenthal kept escaping until she began to express her feelings and moods through her works. This surprising artist, always very committed, does not lack humor and if you like her style I strongly advise you to follow her on Instagram; she will reserve you many surprises!
Looking at these three artworks, I think you understand that at the Welling Court Mural Project in Queens, it’s not necessarily decorative Street Art that we discover. Walls like these are plethora. Artist Joaquin Avila hijacks Donald Trump’s slogan “Make American great again” with a “look, America needs immigrants to be great again …”. Lighter, Rob Sharp will invite the passenger not to try but rather do or not. As for Cernesto, he chooses a more austere style to declare that it is normal to be anxious in such an unfair society. I’m not going to undermine your morale by posting you all the messages I’ve discovered; but it is true that the feeling when you walk in this neighborhood is very different from Brooklyn’s one!
The International Street Artists are also coming to the Queens!
At the beginning of my walk and discovering the artists present one after the other, I first thought that Queens is a district a little removed from the fervor of Manhattan and that there should not have been much international artists; once again I was wrong. They are certainly fewer than Brooklyn or the heart of Manhattan, but they are still present …
I couldn’t finish this article without revealing some surprises … including a French one!
How not to start with Praxis ; he is a super engaged vegan artist! He comes from Bogota and never stops to defend the animal cause. We can find in Manhattan a very large number of its small stencils. Here in Queens, we are lucky enough to discover one of the greatest frescoes he has ever made. His stance against Donald Trump is a clear message for elephant defense; a hunt practiced by the rich, whose sole purpose is to have as a trophy a picture of the dead animal!
If you follow my blog, you will certainly remember the work of Shiro, a very hip hip hop artist I discovered at Street Art City. It seems that she spends most of her time in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan, when she is not in Japan where she officiates as a nurse! For once we find her super flashy universe and all the codes of Street Art & Graffiti in her work.
The number of graffiti made by Mexicans is quite incredible in Queens; this seems rather normal since a large part of the inhabitants of the neighborhood have Mexican’s origin. I chose to show you this work because it was done by two artists recognized in Mexico: Siul_fx; which highlights the Mexican culture in his work by making masks, skulls, devils, … And Reak Ekr who is one of the greatest graffiti artist in Mexico City!
More atypical and unusual, I come across this work of a Nepalese artist, Imagine; a great mantras specialist who thanked Queens for welcoming her to the beautiful event of the Welling Court Mural Project Festival.
I could not finish this international parenthesis without a little French cocorico!
And of course it belongs to the French artist Raf Urban. He distils his positive message “Diversity is Hope” with collages, stencils; and sometimes he even abandons a work on the street of Paris as a gift to curious passers-by!
A paragraph just for you, for the pleasure of your eyes!
I tell myself that it’s a bit unfair to tell you at the beginning of the article that there are more than 150 Street Art works in the Queens and only show you a small sample! Knowing that many of you will not go on vacation there and that the lucky ones who will be able to go there will certainly no longer see these frescoes; because each year in June a new wave of artists invested the place! So here is a small gift for those who will never set foot in the Queens.
I almost missed this magnificent fresco of Simon Cooper, a New York painter. It must be said that this festive scene and very colorful buffet is at the end of an uninviting stalemate …
I really loved this fresco on palisade! And my surprise was great when I discovered that Tamara Heller was absolutely not a Street Artist; but a young 23-year-old portraitist living in New York in the portraitist style that can be found in Montmartre or other touristic places. Personally, I think she should consider making more murals.
Looking at this wall I first thought of a fresco by Tristan Eaton. But in fact it is a Brooklyn artist Mr Never Satisfied who does a lot of his works in South America; Peru, Bolivia, Chile, ..
From Chris RWK I only knew the iconic character half-man and half-robot; it is therefore a beautiful discovery and also the opportunity to see another facet of his work with the execution of this bird with a blue beak.
This rather extraordinary wall is really representative of the place! Each year new murals will partially or wholly cover the old ones; which gives us a colorful vision of chaotic appearance, but also extremely organized finally!
This piece representing Elizabeth Taylor is part of the JaggedTears series directed by artist René Gagnon; this series has been exhibited in museums in Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Boston, London, Tokyo, …This artist before using a mixed technique was one of the great names of graffiti in the early 80s !
I hope you loved this little extra! Of course if you want to discover more pictures of Queens Street Art, you can go on my Instagram !
How to get to the Welling Court Mural Project in Queens?
Very sincerely, if you are going to discover New York and you are a fan of Street Art; keep in your mind that the Queens is only half an hour from Manhattan. The advantage of the Welling Court Mural Project compared to Bushwick: they are a little more organized for visitors! Every year after the Festival which is held in June a map is available on their website. This plan is ultra-comprehensive, easy to understand and will save you valuable time. It will also prevent you from getting lost in the wrong alleys!
I want to tell you again; Queens during the day is not dangerous at all! To get there I recommend you to take the boat because it is much nicer than the train and the metro and you will have an incredible view of Manhattan. The Ferry will cost you no more than the train and you will have to wait 15 minutes to get one. You will get off at the Astoria station and once on the platform you turn right … The Welling Court Mural Project is right at the end!
If you really like Street Art, Queens is for you!
If you enjoyed this ride in Queens, I highly recommend my article on the Bushwick Collective or on Manhattan. Feel free to share and leave me a comment; it’s a pleasure … And if you have generosity at your fingertips; you can give me a donation on Paypal that will help me for the technical part of the blog 😉
See you soon for new adventures!