NY1's Stephanie Simon reports on bird murals popping up around Washington Heights, a collaboration between the National Audubon Society and the Gitler & ____ Art Gallery.
I wouldn't consider myself much of a bird watcher. And yet, after several days filming in and around Washington Heights, like many of the residents there, I'm hooked. Colorful, contemporary bird murals fill storefronts, roll-down gates and building facades.
Avi Gitler had the idea to get local artists to paint a few murals around his gallery on Broadway to brighten up the block. After all, famed bird artist and naturalist James J. Audubon once lived in the neighborhood.
The project grew exponentially when local artist Tom Sanford suggested that Gitler expand the idea to include all 314 birds on the National Audubon Society's list of North American birds threatened by climate change. Not knowing how much work it would entail, Gitler accepted the challenge. So far, 80-plus birds have been painted.
As we visited the different murals, adults and kids stopped on the street to enjoy the works of art. Many took out their phones and snapped pictures. At two spots where artists were working on the newest murals, I could see that local residents were enthralled. They stood and watched, asked questions and complimented the artists' work. A few even asked to help out.
Having lived in Hamilton Heights for many years (quite a few of the murals are there just below Washington Heights), I admit I never really thought about why nearby Audubon Terrace had that name, or Audubon Playground or Audubon Ballroom. I love what Avi says: "I want to do for Audubon what Lin Manuel Miranda did for Hamilton!" This isn't a big splashy musical, but the murals are pretty fantastical while still being scientifically accurate.
These artists are continuing Audubon's legacy of chronicling and celebrating birds. The National Audubon Society has teamed up with Avi to get all 314 birds on its endangered list painted. The folks at Audubon say we might think of NYC as a concrete jungle, but it's a big, important green space for birds (and bird lovers.) Places like Central Park, Bryant Park and Prospect Park are important stopovers for birds on long journeys. There are an array of beautiful birds to be seen and enjoyed all over the Big Apple. It's not just pigeons!
So now, there are two ways to enjoy our birds: take your binoculars to your local park, and take a stroll through Washington Heights and beyond. (Click here for the map.)