The COVID-19 pandemic kept Coney Island’s amusement parks closed and left the neighborhood in a prolonged state of limbo — but the pandemic couldn’t stop the seaside community’s creativity.
The Alliance for Coney Island recently hired six noted artists to paint sprawling murals on storefront gates in an effort to liven up the area, which has become plagued by graffiti as most businesses remain closed during the pandemic.
On Oct. 1, members of the Alliance unveiled the new artwork as part of their People’s Playground Mural Project.
“We are trying to beautify it,” said Alliance Executive Director Alexandra Silversmith. “We think public art is a big benefit to the area, and these are all local artists — some living close by. But the goal is to beautify [Coney Island] and to make it a more pleasant visitor and business environment.”
Featuring New York-based artists Amethyst Nutting, Danielle Mastrion, Julia Cocuzza, Megan Watters, Nell Breyer, and Zeehan Wazed, the People’s Playground Mural Project is located along Surf Avenue, where the gates of season businesses will likely remain down until next spring.
The new murals adorn the frontages of businesses like Coney Island Beach Shop, Fly Wheel Eats at Luna Park and Sneaker Town USA.
Breyer, an artist from Windsor Terrace with a studio in Industry City, said the mural she created at Luna Park represents hope for the community.
“Hopefully it’s something and will help the neighborhood,” she said. “In the meantime, I’ve enjoyed learning about the community.”
Mastrion, an artist based in Marine Park, said her mural took 13 days to paint, and in all was a three-week process.
“I grew up in Coney Island and wanted to [pay tribute to] the historic rides, past and present,” she said of her mural, which also pays homage to the neighborhood’s annual Mermaid Parade.
Silversmith hopes the art will invite locals and visitors alike to stop and look around, and that it will help keep business owners in good spirits until next season.
“We are hoping that next year we will be open and it will be 10 times better and we will have beautiful gates,” Silversmith said, “but more importantly businesses will open and they can survive.”
As for the mural project, Silversmith said, “Anything that brings joy and excitement to our Coney Island community during this difficult time is a much-needed distraction. We encourage New Yorkers to visit us and experience the work in person while supporting our local businesses and the New York Aquarium.”
This story first appeared on amNewYork.