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January 2013

Street Art on Cellophane

Bird on celophaneSome interesting street art from Budapest - on cellophane.

The technique shown here is called CelloGraff and was invented by two French graffiti artists Astro and Kanos. By using cellophane, no damage is done to buildings or structures, and no laws are broken. This makes street art and the freedom to creatively express oneself easier to promote in a responsible way.


If You Don't Like The Music You Could Eat The Record

Breakbot-playable-chocolate-recordI may start buying records again.

French producer and DJ Thibaut Berland, who goes by the stage name Breakbot, has come up with a creative and tasty way to promote his single “By Your Side.” The edible vinyl is made completely of chocolate, and works just like an ordinary vinyl on any record player.

The chocolate vinyl was created by Yozik/Wiseband and Because Music. For $21, the single is available from Ed Banger Record and comes with an accompanying video that showcases the process of creating the limited-edition record. The record can be played and eaten straight afterwards.

We’ve also recently showcased creative takes on traditional vinyls such as the 3D-printed records that work on Fisher Price’s toy record player, and also screenprinted paper records.

Preservation of Harlem's Street Murals

We must make a greater effort to preserve street murals which not only reflect the hsitory of a neighborhood but are also art installation pieces that contribute to the quality of life of a neighborhood. Read this NY Times article and your heart will ache.

Harlem muralsFrom the NYT


One of the first murals that Franco Gaskin noticed missing was of a weeping Martin Luther King Jr. He had painted the work about 18 years ago on the dreary metal front gate of an abandoned store where Dr. King was said to have had a book signing. Then his painting of a bountiful harvest outside a store called Family Fair Fruit that is now a Starbucks disappeared. Also gone was his vision of a phoenix flying near the sun outside a mom-and-pop store that became a Rite Aid.

Back when Harlem’s 125th Street was a far drearier commercial stretch, Mr. Gaskin, an artist who has gained global acclaim as Franco the Great, painted mural after mural on the storefront security gates. He ultimately painted about 200 of them.

“There was a stigma in Harlem,” said Mr. Gaskin, 82, his hands knotty with arthritis, as he sat in his apartment near 125th Street. “I was still trying to beautify it. I just wanted to give people the opportunity to see something different.”

Now as new businesses and higher rents remake the strip, much of Mr. Gaskin’s work has disappeared.

As businesses have shut down or relocated, the old steel roll-down gates, vestiges of Harlem’s troubled past, along with much of Mr. Gaskin’s brilliant work, have ended up in the garbage. Now only about 25 of the steel gates remain.

“It’s upsetting,” said Mr. Gaskin, flipping through photographs of his murals and sitting amid coffee cans filled with paintbrushes, boxes of files, news clippings about him in various languages, and a computer where he conducts his business. Mr. Gaskin is scheduled to travel to Colombia soon to discuss painting a mural in a nightclub.

“All I’ve done in the last 35 years is all for Harlem,” he said. “It’s been forgotten.”

When word about what was happening to the murals spread, Mr. Gaskin’s friends formed a nonprofit group — Team Franco — to save as much of his work as they can. They recently reached out to a few property owners with stores set to close or relocate. In letters written to the owners, they asked to be allowed to take the gates if they were going to be replaced. So far, there have been no responses.

“If push comes to shove, we’ll go knock on the doors,” said one of Mr. Gaskin’s longtime friends, Dana Harper, a retired police officer. Mr. Harper, who was raised in the Polo Grounds housing project in Northern Manhattan, used to patrol 125th Street. He said that with the businesses constantly changing hands, “people don’t have any community ties, and don’t understand the history of what Franco’s been doing there.”

“It’s unfortunate that Franco’s known throughout the world,” Mr. Harper added, “and people see him in Harlem and it’s kind of taken for granted.”

Part of the preservation push was prompted by a city ordinance that went into effect a year ago requiring some businesses to replace their solid roll-down gates with ones that are more see-through. “Mainly, they want to make it look like Fifth Avenue, because there’s white people here now,” Mr. Gaskin said, laughing softly.

Still, the community board that oversees 125th Street issued a resolution in support of efforts to preserve the murals that, the proclamation said, “have lifted the image of Harlem as a community.”

Mr. Gaskin’s friends plan to hold a petition drive to help save the remaining murals and will present the signatures to the City Council. Team Franco is working with local officials to secure a site in Harlem for a gallery to display the murals, and plans to hold fund-raisers.

Mr. Gaskin, who is divorced and has two children, was born in Panama and eventually moved to Harlem to live with his grandmother. He has used the same fifth-floor apartment as his studio for about 40 years. “I must bloom exactly where I was planted,” he said.

For a short time, he worked as a magician, honing his skill at painting blindfolded. The experience helped him venture out of his shell after a childhood fall that had left him virtually mute. Mr. Gaskin soon became a full-time artist, painting murals in bars and churches.

His mural work began when a shopkeeper who owned a clothing store on 125th Street asked him one day to cover his graffiti-mired rollover gate with a painting. Mr. Gaskin left him with an image of a cherry-blossom tree. “And no one touched it,” he said.

Mr. Gaskin painted his storefront murals on Sundays when much of the strip was shuttered. He would leave his apartment at dawn and paint until dark. He did not charge anything for his efforts.

Tour buses in Harlem began to stop so that passengers could see his work, and fans begged for his autograph. Mr. Gaskin would greet some of his female fans by hugging them and lifting them up off the ground. Some started calling 125th Street Franco’s Boulevard and calling him the Picasso of Harlem.

“When that strip was abandoned, except for maybe the rats, he saw those gates as a place to create beauty,” said Bill Perkins, a state senator from Harlem. “In doing so, he gets credit for helping in the turnaround of Harlem.”

The storefront artwork brought fame beyond Harlem — Mr. Gaskin has painted murals in Africa, China, France and Japan.

Although time has wrought ruin on his murals, Mr. Gaskin still gets up early on Sundays to greet tourists along 125th Street. He sells bejeweled shopping bags, Harlem umbrellas, limited-edition prints and remaining posters of Franco the Great. “He can’t do it like he used to,” Mr. Harper said. “But if he sees a little woman he’ll still try to pick her up.”