The murals can be visited on their own. See locations in right hand column.
Kayla Welbanks, Consul General of Spain Juan-Ramon Martinez Salazar, Jane Weissman, poet and Lorca scholar Edward Hirsch, translator Electa Arenal, Jules Hollander, Nick Pelafas, Camille Perrottet and Inigo Ramirez de Haro, Consul, Cultural Affairs.
A huge portrait of Federico García Lorca peered out onto Stockholm Street in Bushwick, painted on a drugstore wall alongside verses from “Sleepless City (Brooklyn Bridge Nocturne).”
Out in the sky, no one sleeps. No one, no one.
But out on the sidewalk, one man groused.
“That doesn’t make sense; everybody sleeps under the sky,” said Hector Morales, a retired construction worker. “Maybe that’s something from an older era, but it doesn’t mean anything to young people today. ‘Stay in school. Don’t do drugs.’ That’s what they should have put.”
Out by the wall, two artists — accustomed to the entire gamut of popular reaction evoked by their latest mural — painted their fourth ofthe Spanish poet and playwrightin this Brooklyn neighborhood. The point of community art is to engage people, even those confounded by their proposition (or, like Mr. Morales, confused by prepositions).
“People ask all the time what’s this poem about,” said Jane Weissman, one of the muralists. “I tell them to read it, and visualize the images — like the resurrection of dead butterflies. A lot of them are metaphors for something else. Unfortunately, I don’t know what for. At the end they’ll have all these images and feelings. It seems to work.”
The mural was inspired by García Lorca’s sojourn in New York in 1929 and 1930, when he studied at Columbia University and traversed the city. Brooklyn pops up in his work a few times, said Walter Krochmal, an actor and García Lorca aficionado who helped foundLorca’s Route in New York, an annual event that brings to life words and moments from the poet’s time here.
Those experiences — witnessing the Wall Street crash, segregation, the gap between rich and poor — affected him deeply. It also, Mr. Krochmal said, altered his ideas about poetry.
“His trip to New York blew his entire metric structure apart,” Mr. Krochmal said. “He stopped using Spanish verse and went to an odd internal rhyme.”
Ms. Perrottet was similarly inspired when she first went to Bushwick a few years ago to visit her son, who had recently moved there. Granted, she was a kindred spirit, having devoured García Lorca’s work years ago. And though she had not done a community mural in a while, she thought Bushwick would be a good place to painta series of walls based on “Sleepless City.”
“This is a great neighborhood,” she said. “It is so full of life. It’s full of different communities.”
It is also filled with the kind of striking contrasts that did not go unnoticed by the poet then or the muralists now. A mix of people pass by the work in progress each day, from young hipsters to longtime residents. Most days, a produce truck is parked nearby, with fruits and vegetables arrayed under a small tent.
People walk, stop and read the verses in English or Spanish. Some are puzzled, others are pleased — even if they are not quite sure why. Some have taken to the wall’s participatory angle, where they are invited to put a colored dot on a grid of local streets to show where they live. During last year’s mural project, a local family had its three children help out every day. This year, one passer-by pointed out an incorrectly translated word.
García Lorca would have appreciated the touch of the surreal on the sidewalk. He would have no doubt appreciated the neighborhood, given his progressive political leanings — which cost him his life in 1936 when he was executed by Fascists.
“He had, like the poet, his ear against the wall,” said Electa Arenal, a retired professor at the City University of New York, who will read “Sleepless City” in Spanish during the July 18 walk. “This neighborhood seems to be multicultural, but that does not mean people know about each other. The walls may contribute to them getting to know one another.”
García Lorca met his fate with his back against the wall in Spain. He lives on with his words on a wall in Brooklyn, where they enchanted Asnev Jimenez one recent morning.
“It’s pretty, that poem,” said Ms. Jimenez, a recent immigrant from Mexico. “You should walk around with your eyes open to understand what it means. Every word of that poem signifies something pretty.”
A version of this article appeared in print on July 8, 2013, on pageA17of theNew York editionwith the headline: A Mural of a Spanish Poet, Confounding and Enchanting.
Spanish playwright and poet Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936) lived
in New York for nine months from June 1929 through March 1930. Sharing
the loneliness and alienation experienced by immigrants new to New York, he saw
much that was wrong with the city, and his work is filled with surrealistic
images that speak to ills that still exist today: poverty, racism and
violence. Selected for the Brooklyn reference in its title, Sllepless City:
Brooklyn Bridge Noctuyrne has great universality in that it explores modernity
and what it means to be human, to desire. Click here for the English and Spanish versions of the poem.
The four The
Federico Garcia Lorca Murals—the last to be painted in Summer
2013—honor Bushwick’s residents and workers. The murals are located with a 15 square
block area of this neighborhood of long-established and more recent immigrants
as well as newer emerging artists. The
murals are close to the subway and all can be easily be visited on foot.
The Federico Garcia Lorca Murals is a project of Artmakers Inc. which, since 1984, has
worked with community organizations to create high quality public art relevant
to lives and concerns of neighborhood residents and workers.
Starr Street between Wycoff and Irving Avenues, 10’ x95’
The first mural
(2011) is on Starr Street between Wycoff and Irving Avenues. The second and third murals (2012) are on
opposite corners of Himrod Street at the intersection of Knickerbocker
Avenue. The 2013 mural will be on
Stockholm Street at the corner of Knickerbocker.
Each mural includes a
stanza from Lorca’s poem, in both Spanish and English translations, as well as
a feature of the poet’s face—his eyes (to see, Mural #1), his lips (to speak,
Mural #2), an ear (to listen, Mural #3). The final mural in the series will feature
Lorca's entire face.
Himrod Street at Knickerbocker Avenue, 8½’ x 88’
As the artists worked, residents and workers daily passed by the wall,
tracking the progess of the murals. They
not only stopped to read the text and engage the muralits in conversation, they
also contributed to a major design element of each of the murals—a visual
representation of their countries of origin.
This information was collected through conversation or by their writing
down countries and cities on notices taped to the walls.
Himrod Street at Knickerbocker Avenue, 8’ x 60’
On Starr Street, flags representing homelands were painted in the white
stripes of the American flag. On Lorca
#2, cities of origin are represented by dots on a map of the world entitled Bushwick: A World Without Borders. The majority of Himrod Street residents/ families
are from Puerto Rico, many settling in Bushwick at 40 years ago and, on Mural
#3, their towns are represented on a map of the island. A map of Bushwick will be incorporated in
Mural #4 which will indicate the locations of the other murals.
2013: Mural #4. Stockholm Street at Knickerbocker Avenue, 8’
Bushwick mural uses Spanish poetry to capture diversity
Bushwick resident Jose Amaro points out his hometown of Yabucoa on Mural No. 3's map of Puerto Rico. Photo by Bryan Koenig/Metropolitan Monitor
By Bryan Koenig For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
BROOKLYN -- When Camille Perrottet started visiting her son in Bushwick three years ago, she immediately fell in love with the neighborhood’s vibrant Hispanic population and burgeoning artist community. So Perrottet, an artist and muralist, decided to make Bushwick the site of her next project.
“I said, why not bring poetry to the streets?” said Perrottet, a lead mural designer for the non-profit group Artmakers, Inc., which paints murals around the city.
Because of his connections to Brooklyn, she chose the 20th century Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca. Lorca’s work then became the driving inspiration behind a four-part mural series on its way to completion in the northeast Brooklyn neighborhood. The featured poem was inspired during Lorca’s time in New York City in 1929 while a student at Columbia University.
Today, different stanzas from Lorca’s “Sleepless City (Brooklyn Bridge Nocturne)” flow across three finished murals on the walls of Bushwick businesses who agreed to participate. Each mural shows a different part of Lorca’s face: eyes, an ear, his mouth.
On Saturday, two of those murals will be formally dedicated at noon on Himrod Street and Knickerbocker Avenue.
Enigmatic but vivid in its imagery, Lorca’s poem of isolation and the immigrant experience and the murals it inspired are being used to showcase the diversity of Bushwick. Artmakers, Inc. plans to complete the fourth and final mural next summer and is currently looking for just the right wall to do it.
On display in English and Spanish, the poem and its murals are “a good representation of what Bushwick is right now,” said local resident Cristian Marino after inspecting a mural for the first time.
Just shy of two-thirds of the neighborhood is Hispanic, according to the 2010 city government profile of Bushwick. One-fifth is African-American, and about every one out of 10 is white.
Bushwick residen Cristian Marino inspects Mural No. 2's world map
Photo by Bryan Koenig/Metropolitan Monitor
The neighborhood’s diversity is particularly evident in mural No. 2’s primary feature, a world map with dozens of dots representing more than 40 countries that community members identify as home.
While working on the mural, Artmakers put out a sign-up sheet so passersby could write down their native city and country. “When they stop and talk, we just ask them where they’re from. And then you get out the atlas and plop a dot,” said Jane Weissman, the project coordinator for the murals.
For those who want a more vivid depiction of Bushwick’s diversity, the best place to view it is mural No.1 -- a giant American flag dotted with the flags of residents’ home countries.
Even the locations of the murals are attempting to draw Bushwick together. On Starr Street, the first and largest mural abuts the younger, more commercial side of Bushwick where its growing artist community is based. At 12 feet tall and 145 feet long, it was painted over two months in the fall of 2011 for about $2,500.
Nine blocks away, murals No. 2 and 3 sit across from each other in the more commercial and Hispanic section on Knickerbocker Avenue. About 8 ft. tall and varying between 65 feet. and 89 feet. wide, they were painted in July and August for a total of about $6,000.
The Lorca Project represents one of more than 40 murals that Artmakers has installed since it was established in 1983. Perhaps the collective’s best-known work is “When Women Pursue Justice,” an enormous 2005 mural still on display in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
A member-run volunteer organization that raises money project to project, Artmakers typically works off of commission provided by sources within the communities they paint. As in the Lorca murals, it also tries to paint one mural pro bono each year, Weissman said, paid for through fundraising.
Coming to Bushwick on its own is unusual for Artmakers, since it is typically brought in by community boards and block associations with specific requests for art.
Planners for the Lorca murals included the storeowners who allowed their walls to be painted, covering up what was in some cases rampant graffiti. Artmakers frequently chatted up those walking past and used their reactions to help guide the process.
Fidel y amigos
According to Weissman, Artmakers got so many people identifying Puerto Rican origins while painting the second mural that they decided to make a map of the island the main feature of No. 3.
“Everyone on the block likes it,” said block association president Veronica Marte. She first learned about the mural and the map of Puerto Rico when she saw Artmakers working on it. “That’s a big thing for us because there are a lot of Puerto Ricans around the neighborhood.”
A few local residents also volunteered to help Perrottet, Weissman and a handful of contributing Artmakers artists paint the murals. Mural No. 1 also got some help from local graffiti artist Optimo Primo.
The fourth wall will feature a full display of Lorca’s face along with “Sleepless City’s” final stanza and a map of the neighborhood that will show the location of each mural. The exact details, including the budget, will be determined once a suitable wall and willing owner has been secured.