Unexpected New York moment: Welling Court Mural Project

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It was an incredibly New York moment. A Queens moment, specifically.

Murals. Music blaring from a woman’s front-yard turntable set-up, a margarita machine not far from the records. Kids riding bikes through the narrow streets. Food and drink stations set up haphazardly along the way. And street art, block after block, being created as we strolled, blanketing a neighborhood in colorful, surrealistic scenes.

As veterans of the outer boroughs, we know well enough to take a car service before considering the G to the 7 to the Q (or something like that) to get to Astoria. We were heading to the third annual Welling Court Mural Project. I had no idea what it was, really, until we arrived. (“Art show in Queens?” “Sure!”) The enthusiastic but somewhat overwhelming website didn’t help clear up matters.

Let me give you my first impressions:

It’s a neighborhood I likely would have never visited outside of this event, but I’m so glad I did. (Astoria I’ve been to, but not this particular area. In fact, I’d never heard of it. That’s New York for you.)

We had to walk a few desolate streets to get to the action. Then, murals begin to pop up on abandoned storefronts and garage doors. Across the street, we saw the entrance to the block party, demarcated with a parked van and a handwritten sign on a cardbord box proclaiming:”Block Party.” Well, okay then.

We wandered the streets, talking to artists as they put final touches on their murals. Some murals were reminiscent of old-school, graffitiied works of art, with words I could barely comprehend. Most were more like large-scale paintings you’d expect to find at MoMA or a gallery in Chelsea (but all the more pleasing in this outdoor, unassuming environment.) It was impossible to take this in and not consider the commercialization of the art world. (That’s a deep thought for another post.)

I’m still not exactly sure what the event is all about, but I read that it was an effort to revitalize and brighten up the Welling Court neighborhood.

This year’s event brought out 90 artists. I saw only a small percentage, but left inspired. New Yorkers: Head to Astoria now to see these murals, and put next year’s event on your calendar (June-ish, 2013.)

Here are some of my favorite photos from the day (I’ve added names where I could find them):

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The Yok and Never.

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One of my favorites – by Skewville.

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The duo known as Sinned.

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