Aug. 25, 2023 By Bill Parry
As construction proceeds on the two new buildings of the long-stalled Halletts Point mega-development rapidly rise along the Astoria waterfront, ArtBridge is partnering with the Durst Organization on a public art exhibition along the construction site.
“A City in Motion” is a 600-foot-long mural, created by Astoria-based multimedia artist Zeehan Wazed and installed along the construction fencing of The Durst Organization’s 20 and 30 Halletts Point, where 647 mixed-income apartments, neighborhood-focused retail and waterfront open space are being developed. The exhibition is part of City Canvas, an initiative of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs that transforms the city’s temporary protective structures into platforms for artwork, driven by collaboration between local artists and communities.
The mural will be on display for the duration of construction, estimated to be complete in 2025.
“At Halletts Point, we are creating meaningful community partnerships along with new housing opportunities and public open space for the neighborhood,” said Jody Durst, president of The Durst Organization said. “Our expressed gratitude goes to ArtBridge, Zeehan Wazed, the Astoria Houses and the Department of Cultural Affairs for bringing this incredible work to life.”
While teaching painting classes for children at the NYCHA Astoria Houses’ Hanac Cornerstone Community Center, Zeehan discovered that the center also offered dance. As an accomplished artist and dancer, Zeehan was inspired to weave the movement of the dance classes into the installation at Halletts Point, making it a dynamic multimedia experience.
Like many Queens artists of his generation, Wazed was inspired by 5Pointz, the world-famous graffiti mecca, that was demolished nearly a decade ago to make way for two high-rise residential buildings across Jackson Avenue from MoMA PS1 in Long Island City.
“I grew up in Queens and when I was young I wasn’t brought to galleries and museums so my first exposure to visual art was seeing murals at 5Pointz while taking the 7 train,” Wazed said. “It was unintentional, it was just a long the way and it really inspired me. I think it’s really important to do that sort of stuff, create public art. I don’t think any space is wanted with art.”
Founded in 2008 by artist and designer Rodney Durso, ArtBridge empowers emerging artists to transform construction sheds and fencing into a canvas for art. ArtBridge works with communities and artists to develop large-scale exhibitions that represent local narratives and cultures. ArtBridge’s exhibitions have provided prominent public exposure for more than 200 artists and have covered over 50,000 square feet of public space.
“We are thrilled to work with Durst to showcase the brilliant art of Zeehan Wazed, in collaboration with residents of Astoria Houses. ArtBridge’s goal is not only to beautify the City’s 300+ miles of construction fencing — we want to showcase local artists, while exploring and celebrating themes and cultures that are specific to the neighborhood of each exhibition,” ArtBridge Executive Director Stephen Pierson said. “With Durst’s support and Zeehan’s community-engaged process, we were able to succeed in this mission.”
City Canvas allows for the installation of large-scale, temporary artwork on protective construction structures — namely construction fences and sheds — throughout the five boroughs. City Canvas is a collaboration between NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, the Office of the Mayor and the NYC Department of Buildings designed to improve the city’s visual landscape, while giving artists and organizations opportunities to bring their work to public space.
“The Department of Cultural Affairs’ City Canvas initiative transforms often necessary but unsightly protective structures into platforms for local artists like Zeehan Wazed, and we’re thrilled that ArtBridge and The Durst Organization collaborated to bring this extraordinary mural to life through this innovative city program,” NYC Department of Cultural Affairs Director of External Affairs Ryan Max said.
Wazed immigrated from Bangladesh to the U.S. with his family in 1994 and was raised in Jamaica. Taking the subway to and from school each day, he received a world-class education in the flourishing subterranean universe of graffiti and street performance.
As an accomplished artist and dancer, Zeehan was inspired to weave the movement of the dance classes into the installation at Halletts Point, making it a dynamic multimedia experience. He took video of the dance classes in front of a green screen, leading to the mural’s silhouettes of dancers which come alive through a digital integration with the Artvive app. Download and open the app on your phone, point your camera at the mural and see it come to life through augmented reality.
“I’m thrilled to introduce this new work at Halletts Point,” Wazed said. “Movement is a big inspiration for my work. When I saw the dance classes at the Hanac Cornerstone Community Center, I knew I wanted to incorporate the residents of the neighborhood into this piece so they could see themselves reflected in the art.”