Artists unveil literary-themed murals at ruined Prospect Heights laundromat

A group of painters unveiled the latest chapter in a recurring series of mural enhancements to a gnarly, old ruins of a former laundromat in Prospect Heights.

The new mural project saw artists take on famous book covers, such as “Moby Dick,” “Water for Elephants,” and “Tales of the City,” along with many famed literary tales. One mural features a spin on “Where The Wild Things Are” featuring the original children’s book characters dressed as Brooklyn hip–hop trio The Beastie Boys.

The art graces the dilapidated laundromat at St. Johns Place and Underhill Avenue, which was gutted by a fire some 16 years ago. The owner was never able to renovate his ramshackle edifice, but the building received an unexpected facelift in 2015, when artist and longtime Prospect Heights resident Jeff Beler contacted the building’s owner and convinced him to donate the construction fence surrounding his burnt-out husk for use as a canvas.

Since then, Beler and his band of professional and amateur painters have repainted the barricade every six months or so. Past themes have included “Urban Jungle” and zodiac signs, and the recurring makeover has become a cause for celebration among community members.

Artist Ralph Surrano with his “Don Quixote” inspired mural
Photo by Colin Mixson

“It’s changed the community,” Beler said. “Every time we do an installation it just brings the children and everybody out.”

Paulie Nassar, a Brooklyn-based artist who has been involved with the murals since it was last updated and contributed a “Charlottes Web” mural last weekend, said he loved being a part of a project of local renown.

Majo Barajas with her “Like Water for Chocolate” mural.
Photo by Colin Mixson

“I love the reaction,” said Nassar, who runs Off the Wall Graffiti, a Brooklyn based nonprofit for kids who have gotten in trouble for doing graffiti. “People coming up all day and saying thank you, and that they love coming by on their way home.”

And while Nassar’s mural may only live for half a year, that just means he gets to go back and paint something new.

Justin Winslow with his “Tales of the City” mural.
Photo by Colin Mixson

“So many times you get these things where people put in a mural project and they want the mural to be there for 20 years,” he said. “To know when I do my piece, that it has a six-month shelf life, I kind of enjoy that as a street artist. I feel like we fight to make everything permanent now, no one wants anyone to go over their thing, that was never the point, the point was to paint on stuff, let’s just get back to that.”

Reach reporter Ben Verde at (718) 260–2525 or by e-mail at bverde@cnglocal.com.
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