September 23, 2023
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NYC DOT Celebrates New Murals Inside the 191st Street Subway Tunnel in Upper Manhattan
Six artists painted the tunnel to the 1 Train, keeping a focus on community and culture in the Upper Manhattan neighborhood
New York — New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez today joined artists and local volunteers to beautify the walls of the NYC DOT-owned and maintained 191st Street Tunnel in Upper Manhattan. NYC DOT selected six artists to paint murals on the walls of the tunnel and committed to offer community volunteers a role. Today’s painting is the culmination of a community-based process that included NYC DOT’s issuance of a Request for Proposal (RFP) seeking submissions of bold, colorful designs. The tunnel is used each day by thousands of subway riders to access New York City Transit’s 1 Train via Broadway.
“The 191st Street subway tunnel is a cherished part of the community and it’s fitting that its colorful new murals reflect the spirit of Upper Manhattan,” said New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. “These local artists, along with the dozens of community volunteers, brought a renewed vibrancy to the inside of the tunnel. I thank everyone for their participation and look forward to the public enjoying the walls that are truly a work of art.”
Each artist was assigned an equal section of the tunnel, altogether covering approximately 10,000 square feet of artwork space, and one artist was commissioned to paint the outside entrance to the tunnel. Since artists used stencils with repeating patterns, community volunteers of all ability levels were able to easily implement the designs. The volunteers also helped with other painting related tasks throughout the day.
Painting occurred from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and the tunnel will re-open tonight at 7:00 p.m.
Vicky Azcoitia (Pasito a Pasito): The Washington Heights-based artist, in addition to painting, works with photography and design. “Pasito a Pasito” honors the sounds of the community through the representation of Merengue-Salsa with a blue background that represents the two rivers that surround the neighborhood, green highlighting the parks, and different size footprints emphasizing the families who enjoy them.
Daniel Bonilla (Love and Repeat): A Washington Heights/Inwood-born and raised artist who is curating the Riverside-Inwood Neighborhood Gardens “Art in the Garden” for the third year in a row. “Love and Repeat” is made up of a series of shapes symbolizing a heart repeating many times over. Most importantly it symbolizes inspiration to do what we do with love over and over.
Denise Coke (You Are Always Home): A Queens-born Caribbean-American who is based in Jamaica, Queens, is an award-winning creative director and owner of $NP Designs who is best described as an augmented reality artist, muralist, and digital artist. Coke was tasked with painting a colorful and vibrant entrance to the tunnel. “You Are Always Home” embraces the vibrant cultural tapestry of Washington Heights symbolized by a welcoming woman of color extending her arms to invite all into the tunnel. She is adorned with blossoms from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Rasheeda Johnson (Bayahibe Rose Eternal): A multidisciplinary artist with 13 years as a Washington Heights resident, Johnson has had the opportunity to experience the rich cultures represented in the area, which she uses as inspiration for her work. “Bayahibe Rose Eternal” features the Bayahibe rose as the basis for her design. The rose is the national flower of the Dominican Republic which is reflective of the large Dominican population in the area.
Carla Torres (Platanal): A Washington Heights-based artist since 2006, originally from Ecuador, Torres works across several media including drawing, painting, illustration, animation, and murals. “Platanal” is expressed by a simple, abstract landscape that mirrors the scenery of a platanal (Spanish for banana plantation) and reflects on the richness of Dominican and Ecuadorian food and culture present in Washington Heights. “Platanal” also brings some beauty and nature to the underground.
NYC DOT and Commissioner Rodriguez also gave a special thanks to Pabon Crane, a Washington Heights-based artist, who facilitated a group of local artist volunteers to paint a portion of the tunnel with their own designs and expressions.
“It’s a rewarding opportunity to give back to my community, to improve a local landmark in the neighborhood that I and my family have called home for the past decade,” said Vicky Azcoitia.
“I am excited to paint this iconic tunnel in the neighborhood where I grew up and walk through frequently,” said Daniel Bonilla. “Public art is so important for many reasons, and I hope to continue creating not just for the locals but for the entire world!”
“I've been connected to the Heights since I was in high school; going to HSFI in the city, I would visit to see my friends and be immersed in the welcoming community culture,” said Denise Coke. “This is why my piece features a woman with her arms open because uptown has always welcomed me in, whether that be visiting friends or hanging out in my older years.”
“I never considered or knew I could be an artist growing up,” said Rasheeda Johnson. “My mission as an artist and educator is to let young people know that they can have a career as an artist if they choose.”
DOT Art Background
The New York City Department of Transportation’s (“NYC DOT”) Art Program (“DOT Art”) oversees the installation of public artworks on NYC DOT property throughout New York City in partnership with a diverse body of professional artists, galleries, business improvement districts and arts, community-based and other nonprofit organizations. City sidewalks, fences, triangles, medians, bridges, jersey barriers, step streets, pedestrian plazas, and other unique project sites serve as canvases and foundations for temporary murals, sculptures, interventions, and cultural programming. In addition, NYC DOT Art coordinates the conservation and maintenance of NYC DOT’s permanent art collection and collaborates with the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) Percent for Art Program to commission permanent art as part of the Percent for Art law. For more information about NYC DOT Art, visit www.nyc.gov/dotart.