Coney Island – an iconic summer destination best known for its beach and amusement park, will now also be known for its art. This spring, street artists partnered with New York City based real estate development and investment firm Thor Equities to transform an empty lot in the center of Coney Island into the new Coney Island Art Walls. The summer-long project was conceived by founder of Thor Equities and Coney Island native, Joseph Sitt, who hoped to bring arts to the community, help revitalize the boardwalk, and promote economic development.
According to Sitt, “Coney Island has struggled for decades and lost a lot of the sparkle that once drew millions each summer from New York and beyond. In the long term, we aspire to return the luster to Coney and bring it back to being a playground not just for New Yorkers, but for the world.”
Featuring the illustrated works of more than 30 local and international artists, the 50,000 square foot space has murals ranging from the work of local studio artist Jane Dickson to pieces from well-known international artists such as the Belgian artist, ROA. The wide spectrum of artist backgrounds is reflective of the diverse population of beach goers who visit Coney Island’s each summer.
Thor Equities has been involved in several real estate development projects on Brooklyn’s southern-most neighborhood, and feels committed to honoring Coney Island’s past while preserving its future. “Coney Art Walls is the next exciting step in our ongoing plans to help restore the vitality of Coney Island, and build on our successes in the neighborhood.”Sitt believes now is the perfect time for a project of this caliber. “In 2014, Coney Island recorded its best season in decades, with more than 11.45 million people visiting the beach and boardwalk.”
The art walls were curated by Jeffrey Deitch, the former director of the Museum of Contemporary Art and an art dealer in New York. You can see several murals as well ascommissioned works and community walls from renowned artists Shepard Fairey, Daze, Crash, Futura, Lady Pink, How & Nosm, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, and Kenny Scharf.
With the programmatic and promotional help of the Coney Island Museum, the project site was also home to events and music programming throughout the summer, including Coney Smorgasburg, which features 12 diverse food vendors and a bar serving craft beer and wine.
Thor Equities hopes that the impact of Coney Island Art Walls on the neighborhood will endure beyond summertime. This concept is perhaps best captured by the text at the bottom of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s mural titled Coney Island Portraits: "The day before Easter, and the day after Labor Day – people still live here. People die here. People love here."
*Photo by Martha Cooper