When local stores close down, murals spring up thanks to artist

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When business owners in Kingsbridge bring their gates down at the end of the day, most passersby do not look twice. But when street artist Giannina Gutierrez looks up, she sees a blank canvas. As a result, five storefronts in Kingsbridge have received makeovers in the form of murals from her. With each project, she said she is catching the attention of more and more residents.

“It’s catching like wildfire now that business owners are seeing the artwork up at night,” said Ms. Gutierrez. “All the people in the neighborhood come and say hi. The community’s been really supportive and awesome.”

Ms. Gutierrez’s murals are supported through 501 (See)(Streets), which promotes civic and artistic engagement throughout New York City. Although he claimed he “cannot draw a straight line with a ruler,” the group’s founder and director, Noah Sheroff, said he was inspired by the city’s street art collectives. He decided to spearhead a way to help artists find public spaces for their work. Through Instagram and meetings with community groups, Mr. Sheroff has found artists interested in creating public works with input from the communities where they are working.

“There’s a responsibility in art in general, but it’s different when it’s public because you’re affecting people,” explained Ms. Gutierrez.

Mr. Sheroff collaborated with members of the Kingsbridge Business Improvement District (BID) to find out what kind of artwork residents and storeowners would want to see. 

“We connected and had this idea for painting the gates. When some of these businesses are closed, it would illuminate the area,” he said.

Ms. Gutierrez’s work does just that. She said it has changed her own approach to making art.

“Making that transition was a cool learning experience for me. Going from what I do on canvas… for a larger public area was a little bit of a challenge. Now it’s becoming second nature,” she said.

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