While Coney Island has captured the imaginations of millions of people for decades, artists will add their creative genius to the area this summer. Brooklyn reporter Jeanine Ramirez spoke exclusively to the developer about a large public art project taking shape at the shorefront.
Developer Joe Sitt touches a blank wall that will soon become an artist's canvas. He's putting up some two dozen concrete slabs on his Stillwell Avenue property. Then, in the coming weeks, 28 artists will descend on Coney Island to create their murals.
"It'll be an interesting experience, almost like theater, seeing some of the world's greatest artists, street artists and contemporary artists, that are going to be designing these walls live while everybody's watching them," Sitt says.
The project, called "Coney Art Walls," is free to the public and will be curated by Jeffrey Deitch, who did a similar exhibition called Art in the Streets at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles four years ago. The artists here will work for a small stipend over the course of the summer.
"We're supplying all of the materials and the canvases and everything to make this happen, but this is not a for-profit venture for them," Sitt says.
Sitt is also partnering with the founders of Smorgasburg to open one of their food markets on the site over Memorial Day weekend. A dozen vendors will set up in shipping containers. The power lines are now being laid down for the food showcase.
"We've got jerk chicken coming. Wev'e got mofongo, Puerto Rican food. We've got some Thai food. We've got fish tacos," says Jonathan Butler, co-founder of Smorgasburg.
And craft beer. It'll be the first time Smorgasburg, which operates in Williamsburg and Brooklyn Bridge Park, sets up shop in south Brooklyn.
"Coney Island has an energy and a history to it that really, no other place does, so we're really happy and proud to be a part of that," Butler says.
As for Sitt's vacant property across the avenue, he says a trapeze school will be flying in.
All this new activity has Coney Island business owners excited about attracting the crowds.
"Especially since this is, like, the gateway to Coney Island. Come off the train, and this is what you see," says Maya Haddad, owner of the Coney Island Beach Shop. "So we're really, really excited."
The first group of artists is expected to start working the week of May 18.