The Jersey City Public Arts Advisory Board at its July 18 meeting gave the go-ahead to a mural by an Italian street artist at St. Peter’s University, the latest in a number of large mural projects being produced over the summer.
Mural artist Peeta will decorate a wall of Rankin Hall at 910 Montgomery St., home to the university’s Fine Arts Department, which hosts graphic design, painting, drawing and sculpture studios.
St. Peter’s wanted a mural that was heavily design and sculpture-based to inspire their student body.
Peeta, who grew up in Venice, Italy where he still resides, is a world-renowned artist known for his larger than life, 3-dimentional-esque murals.
He was chosen by St. Peter’s University from among six other artists.
Peeta said he started making street art in 1993 after being inspired by huge murals he saw on an earlier trip to Barcelona.
And though he collaborated with some of the most prestigious underground graffiti artists in Canada and the United States, he said he decided to do legal work. For a time, he worked on canvas and started his own business in 2008. He studied industrial design at the University of Venice. He said he is interested in the graphic culture behind graffiti, and uses this study to improve his skills.
“There is nothing like this in Jersey City.” – Brooke Hansson
He said sculptures for him are not only an artistic object itself but also a tool to deepen his knowledge of shapes and volumes. His large work projects, the arts council noted, creates the illusion of 3-dimention so that they often resemble sculptures.
The project will have high visibility along Montgomery Street near where it meets West Side Avenue in Jersey City.
“There is nothing like this in Jersey City,” said Brooke Hansson, who directs both the anti-graffiti and anti-litter program for the city.
The public art program in Jersey City has a city crew that helps prime a potential site for the artist to create, Hansson said.
This work is expected to start on Aug. 15 and hopefully be complete by Aug. 20.
Murals throughout the city
The mural program is partly funded through an anti-graffiti grant. Every year a portion of the grant is allocated to cover paint supplies and small art stipends for artists depending on the size of the wall and the time required to complete the project.
Peeta’s project is the third major mural project expected to be completed this summer. Currently being done is a mural at Mecca & Sons outside the Holland Tunnel.
“This is the largest mural in Jersey City,” Hansson said. “It is larger even than David Bowie.”
A portrait of the late pop star can be seen on the south side of the Cast Iron Lofts building on Jersey Avenue.
The Mecca project has Green Villain of Jersey City partnering with local artist Distort in conjunction with the Jersey City Mural Arts program.
The program involves a number of local entities including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and local police providing protection for equipment and workers.
“They just started it this week,” Hansson said. “We have our crew there, and once it is done, it will move on to Ravine Road where it will prep for a mural project in the tunnel there.”
This is a road that runs from Jersey City Heights into Hoboken with a short tunnel under Central Avenue. Hansson said the Ravine Road tunnel has been frequently tagged by illegal graffiti and is largely a mess.
“We’ll power wash the walls, and then start on the mural project,” she said.
Led by a team
According to Hansson, the mural program is led by a team of managers, artists, and administrators in the mayor’s office, the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Department of Public Works, who work directly with neighborhood groups, educational institutions, small businesses, and private property owners to select ideal locations, recommend artists, and help to determine the theme and content of the murals commissioned.
The projects are now also reviewed by the arts council, which works with private property owners such as St. Peter’s University to develop projects.
Primarily launched as an anti-graffiti initiative, the program has since grown as an apparatus to engage community groups, educational institutions, partner with larger entities that own land in Jersey City, such as Conrail and the Turnpike Authority, and to help reactivate and beautify former dead-zones and vacant lots, city officials said.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org