For decades, a three-story high mural on the side of the building at 200 4th Ave. on the border of Park Slope and Gowanus was a symbol of the neighborhood. Displaying an image of seven women seen from below their balconies, each involved in a different task— studding, braiding a girl’s hair, stretching, looking through a telescope, painting and taking care of a baby — the piece represented the women who lived in the building, a shelter for single mothers and their infants run by Community Help in Park Slope.
The once-significant wall painting was washed away by Superstorm Sandy as it swept through the city in October 2012, leaving behind only the exposed brick of the wall. But, as the ten-year anniversary of the storm approaches, the organization is looking for funding and for the artist to fill the gap.
“We know that it’s truly missed,” Branch said. “We get questions and comments all the time about putting something back in its spot. And this time we’re looking for this mural to encompass the whole entirety of CHiPS.”
The organization is inviting artists to show their portfolio and come up with a proposal on a vision for the space. Arts Gowanus, a non-profit that promotes art and artists in Brooklyn, is helping with fundraising, sourcing artists, advising on the project. A GoFundMe page set up by the organization had raised just over $1,000 in donations, out of a $10,000 goal, in just under two weeks.
“We want to pay a team of artists to imagine and paint a new one,” wrote ArtsGowanus executive director Johnny Thornton on the fundraising page. “We’ll be releasing an open call for proposals once we’ve funded the project.”
With a staff of less than 20 people, CHiPS relies entirely on charitable donations from local businesses, civic groups, houses of worship, schools and grants from the federal, state and city government. Their food pantry distributes over 100 bags of non-perishable goods and fresh produce weekly to the community, and its soup kitchen and food pantry also serves more than 250 meals per day to Brooklynites struggling with food insecurity.
The organization bought the 4th Avenue building in the 90s. In 2004, a group of women artists, ages 14 to 20, led by Katie Yamasaki, muralist and children’s book artist, designed the fresco titled, I Deal, I Dream, I Do.
“Although too often women encounter many obstacles in their paths to success, the mural sends a clear message to young women in the community that through study, the arts, community support, and sheer dedication, they can fulfill their dreams,” reads the artist’s website. “And through a commitment to themselves and their community, women can far exceed their own expectations, just as the participants in this project did.”
The CHiPS building is temporarily closed for renovations, but is set to reopen on Sept. 6. In the meantime, the organization is serving their community in other ways.
“We’re in the process of getting funding to purchase and re-purpose a van for our mobile food pantry to drive to different areas within the community,” Branch said.