Aug 25, 2010 Ami Olson Uncategorized
Beginning this week, artist Steve “ESPO” Powers will team with the Near Westside Initiative and the Connective Corridor to transform the corner of West Fayette and West streets into an eye-catching mural installation titled “A Love Letter to Syracuse.”
The Near Westside Initiative has commissioned internationally-known Powers to create a public art project to “visually disrupt” a physical barrier at the most critical intersection of the Connective Corridor and Near Westside.
The gateway, where The Warehouse sits, is used by thousands of commuters daily and provides access to downtown, but also acts as a natural barrier between the Near Westside and the rest of the city. Created by heavy traffic and three cavernous bridges that deter individuals from passing under them, the barrier has created a chasm in Syracuse for years. Powers will transform the bridges into enormous pieces of public art, making the intersection more aesthetically interesting and pedestrian-friendly.
“The goal of the project is to ultimately bridge the Near Westside community to downtown, which will give access to new markets and resources for residents in the neighborhood,” said Maarten Jacobs, director of the Near Westside Initiative. “When conceiving this project, we knew we had to commission an artist who could bring both the talent and social consciousness needed to make the intersection a celebrated space that no longer acts as a barrier, but instead bonds neighborhoods and people together.”
Powers is a New York City-based artist who at one time wrote graffiti in Philadelphia and New York under the name ESPO (“Exterior Surface Painting Outreach”). In 2000, he gave up graffiti to become a full-time studio artist. He has created artwork for the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Teen Health Center; painted signs and rides at Coney Island; and created murals in Dublin and Belfast, both located in Ireland’s Shankhill area.
In 2009, Powers created a mural project in West Philadelphia about the complexities and rewards of relationships called “A Love Letter for You.” Powers and his crew painted 50 murals along the elevated train on Market Street. Inspiration for the murals came directly from residents who were canvassed about their feelings about the neighborhood. Powers translated those into largely text-based murals, focusing on the common struggles of the community and reframing them in a positive light.
Likewise, Powers and several artists have canvassed Near Westside residents for inspiration. They held neighborhood meetings and went door-to-door asking for input about the community. For the Syracuse project, he translated those ideas and words into positive messages that recognize the hardships and beauties of everyday life. The inspiration for the Syracuse murals include paying the bills, having nothing to do, the four seasons and people’s ultimate view that the city is a good place to live and raise a family. Powers has created preliminary designs for the bridges and what they will look like on the actual iron girders.
The installation of “A Love Letter to Syracuse” began Tuesday Aug. 24. The first few days of the project consisted of Powers and his crew prepping the bridges for painting. Following their prep work, the murals will be painted onto the iron girders.
In addition, documentary filmmaker Faythe Levine will be in Syracuse beginning Aug. 27 to film Powers and his crew during the installation process for her new film about the American tradition of sign painting.