Clean canvas: Beloved PLG mural painted over to make way for new public artwork

Clean canvas: Beloved PLG mural painted over to make way for new public artwork

Don’t have an art attack!

Prospect-Lefferts Gardens residents dismayed over the loss of a beloved Fenimore Street mural can turn their frowns upside down because another artist will create a new painting on the wall that featured the decaying public artwork.

And locals may recognize the woman tapped to produce the new mural on the Fenimore Street–side of the building at 631 Flatbush Ave., according to its caretaker, who said artist Katie Merz also created a massive painting on another Flatbush Avenue structure just down the road at the site of a controversial megadevelopment on the edge of Boerum Hill.

“I commissioned Katie, who is responsible for the beautiful mural at 80 Flatbush in Boerum Hill, to donate a bigger mural in the coming weeks,” said Royce Douglas. “The old mural was well received by the community, but unfortunately over the years it started peeling, and it was recently vandalized.”

Many locals reacted with shock after workers smeared black paint over the original mural — which eight artists collaborated on back in 2011 — taking to social media earlier this week to lament its sudden destruction.

“No!!!” Jill Krupnik wrote when commenting on a May 8 Facebook post reporting on the mural’s disappearance.

And other residents blamed gentrification for the public painting’s removal — but those folks might be surprised to know their neighbors blasted the artwork as a sign of social change back when it was created, according to one man who helped the original mural come to be.

“A handful of people complained about the original mural as an example of gentrification,” said Bob Marvin, a bigwig at PLG Arts, which orchestrates public-art projects in the neighborhood. “Everything sparks controversy these days, but I don’t see the painting of the wall as an example of gentrification, and I certainly don’t see painting over it as that either.”

Paint it black: A worker painted over the previous artwork to make way for muralist Katie Merz’s new creation.
Community News Group / Saul Marquez

But locals won’t have to look at the blank canvas for long, according to Merz, who said she plans to begin working on her new mural this weekend.

The piece will recall her elaborate, three-story black-and-white mural at 94 Flatbush Ave., which builder Alloy Development paid Merz $50,000 to create before it razes that structure and several of its neighbors to make way for its five-building 80 Flatbush complex — if the project and its necessary upzoning application survive the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

But the final design of the Prospect-Lefferts Gardens mural will come together organically, according to the artist, who said she plans to tap the creative minds of passersby while creating it, like she did when working on her other public artwork last year.

“It will be totally free form,” Merz said. “It’s like crowdsourcing, or a collective.”

Douglas met Merz on the street while she painted her Boerum Hill mural, according to the artist, who said the caretaker asked her “if I work for free.” And it turns out Merz does — at least in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, she said.

“My dad literally grew up down the street, and his dad was a super on Winthrop Street,” Merz said. “I love working on things I’m connected to.”

— with Saul Marquez

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Black and white: Merz’s massive mural at 94 Flatbush Ave. in Boerum Hill.
Community News Group / Colin Mixson