Beautifying Hoboken’s Washington Street

Fifteen murals completed in Art Box Mural Project

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Artist Lawrence Ciarallo and "Struggle of a Lifetime" at 89 Washington St.
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"Rainbow Connection" by Michelle Wang at 1301 Washington St.
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Artist Lawrence Ciarallo and "Struggle of a Lifetime" at 89 Washington St.
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"Rainbow Connection" by Michelle Wang at 1301 Washington St.

Utility boxes along Hoboken’s main street that used to hold electrical wiring and above ground access infrastructure are now art installations by local artists.

The Hoboken Art Box Mural Project beautified 15 utility boxes along Washington Street.

Hoboken’s Arts Advisory Committee launched the project this fall selecting artists, who live or work in Hoboken to paint murals reflecting various themes related to “equality and inclusion.”

Downtown beautification

The installations run on Washington from Newark to 14th Street.

At 89 Washington St. Lawrence Ciarallo created “Struggle of a Lifetime,” honoring John Lewis.

“I could think of no better way to reflect our theme of equity and inclusion than with a tribute to him,” Ciarallo said. “Mr. Lewis dedicated his life to the principle of nonviolent, democratic action, and his ‘good trouble’ quote was a perfect explanation of those values.”

Ciarallo said that the struggle for social, economic, racial, and gender equality never ends.

“As Mr. Lewis so eloquently reminds us, ‘this struggle is not a struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year. It is the struggle of a lifetime.’”

At 101 Washington St. self-taught artist, Sayeed A. Syed created “Clear Skies, which depicts an African boy dancing in the rain “for freedom.”

“Through a child’s eyes, no matter what race, religion or region, when it rains, they see clear skies,” Syed said. “They see the joy when adults see a gloomy, unfortunate wasted day. I want to send a message that we should always see the beauty of each day like we once did as innocent children. The world may have stripped us of that, but not our optimistic outlook on the world.”

Former Art History and Illustration Professor Anita Torres Milena created “Universal Lotus” at 201 Washington St., featuring a Lotus mudra.

Milena said everyone is part of a “universal diaspora” where individuals play an important role in community.

“This reality allows us to be authentic, free, regardless of differences but taking into account our roots,” she said. “This is how we become a strong and inclusive community.”

She said the Lotus “flower floats on the surface, and its roots are deep in the mud, remaining firm and strong; its beauty emerges from the darkness. This work is a metaphor for light and fairness in the midst of chaos.”

At 301 Washington St. stands a “Mile Square Celebration” by Parson’s School of Design part-time Assistant Professor Kelli Glancey.

Her inspiration came from paper cutouts of Henri Matisse, and her passion for color.

“Color is a universal language, ‘read’ and interpreted by the viewer based on subjective aesthetic, gender, beliefs, psychological and symbolic meaning,” Glancey said. “The Hoboken narratives in the piece celebrate our rich history of diversity and community. From joyous occasions such as our cultural festivals to the more recent challenges in response to Hurricane Sandy, Covid-19, and Black Lives Matter, Hoboken rises to the betterment of all.”

Chesleigh Meade created “Venuses of Hoboken” at 425 Washington St. based on the Venus figure, addressing themes of creation, compassion, nurturing, and interconnectedness.

“This figure has been made by many different cultures across many different regions throughout history,” she said. “I find the creation of like things without contact from one another to be one of the most human things. Some things are just so ingrained that they pop out of civilizations over and over again.”

At 537 Washington St. “Hoboken United” by Matthew Dean features multi-colored hands holding an orb stating “Hoboken Strong.”

“Hoboken is a true community,” Dean said. “Living here, I’ve felt the impact of being part of something bigger – a place where everyone is seen, heard, and respected, regardless of race, religion, beliefs, gender, or politics. We treat one another as equals, with love, kindness, and understanding. We are all colors, we are all shades, and we are all different and diverse, but when we come together as a community, we have the power to create a better humanity – together.”

Uptown art

“We Are All Related” created by All Saints Episcopal Day School students Kyla Harvie, Chloe Rousseau, Penny Preston, and Sergio Sandino stands in front of the school at 707 Washington St.

“Our design represents the shared love between all cultures,” they said in a joint statement. “There is no knowing which hand is sharing the heart and which is receiving the love. That is what represents equity.”

The mural features the words “Mitakuye Oyasin” meaning “we are all related.”

“This quote was taught to us in our school,” they said. “It means that we are all different and individual, but we treat each other as if we are part of the same family and deserve the same respect and love. We are so grateful for this opportunity as it gave us kids a chance to use our voice for the better.”

At 801 Washington St. stands Greg Brehm’s “Home Sweet Hoboken.”

The mural features a rainbow of pigeons going about everyday Hoboken life.

Brehm said he loved the project and was touched by the enthusiasm people expressed while he worked on the mural.

“I can’t claim that I’ve come up with anything super-profound, but I’ve really tried to create something subtly meaningful that will also induce a smile in those who see it. We could all use a smile these days,” he said.

Mher Khachatryan created “We are together” at 900 Washington St.

“This painting is about how I see and understand life,” Khachatryan said, noting that people are more alike than different.

“We are all children of God, we all laugh, cry, love the same way,” said Khachatryan. “It doesn’t matter our religion or sexual orientation. We Are Together”

At 1001 Washington St. stands “Love is Love” by Eleanor Sgaramella, showing the representation and visibility of LGBTQ+ persons.

“During my time at university, I was the Vice President of the Gender Sexuality Alliance, and some of the elements we worked hardest to improve were the representation and visibility of our community,” Sgaramella said. “With the opportunity to put my design on this utility box through the Hoboken Art Box Mural Project, I felt I was able to continue making strides in that battle. My design fits into the theme of Equality and Inclusion for similar reasons, especially with the main message across it reading ‘love is love.’”

“Silver Mask” by Raisa Nosova stands at 1039 Washington St., offering a platform for discussion on the topics of resilience, trauma, and cultural displacement.

“I seek to bring awareness to the emotional baggage and the struggle that survivors have to conceal in daily life,” Nosova said. “I have been a part of the highly diverse city of Hoboken since 2013 and have been honored to meet so many who have gone through prejudice, discrimination, abuse, and even war or genocide in their birth countries. These people do not share openly about their life experience but instead suppress the pain to move on with daily life.”

Nosova’s work depicts individuals behind masks “communicating human strength and offering empathy to those who connect through a warm, deep eye contact.”

“The viewer of any race, age or gender is able to relate to the masked faces in the works as the design of the masks are carefully put together to hide these differences and focus on the equity of humanity,” Nosova said.

At 1131 Washington St. stands Alison Josephs’ “The Hoboken Tree” based on a mini tree growing on 12th Street.

In the work, a myriad of birds from various countries perch on entangled branches representing Hoboken’s diverse ethnic composition.

“This painted work, a gift to my Hoboken community, was really a gift to me,” Josephs said. “In a time of isolation due to the pandemic, to paint outside and socialize was a comfort, the corner became a meeting place: “Let’s meet outside at the Tree.’” She said neighbors, friends, and passersby helped paint birds from their countries of origin.

“’The Hoboken Tree’ was most certainly created by the loving community that surrounds it,” Josephs said.

“Rainbow Connection” created by Michell Wang stands at 1301 Washington St.

On one side is a smiling girl with rainbow lipstick and on the other a man with a rainbow mustache.

“The smiling girl represents how much we have achieved for LGBTQ community,” said Wang. “The frowning man with a fist alerts us that we cannot stop here and we need to keep working toward ultimate equality and inclusion. The paintings are all black and white except for the rainbow lipsticks and mustache, which symbolizes the joy and pride from being a part of the LGBTQ community.”

For updates on this and other stories check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.