- Words and Photos by Joanna Pan
A Massive Indoor/Outdoor Art Initiative: The Drip Project
Drip Project curator Harris Lobel and The Mes Hall founder Chris "MES" Vinson
The 50+ artworks shown here hail from a single art initiative: the Drip Project at The Mes Hall in Mount Vernon, NY.
And what you're seeing now barely skims the surface. Walk through, and some 45,000 square feet of masterfully-curated art unfolds across concrete/brick exteriors, rooftops, lounges, workspaces, labyrinthine hallways, stairwells, restrooms, and discreet nooks. Many additional works are going up or being planned as you read this.
Despite jaw-dropping metrics in square-footage and artworks, the Drip Project's curation is virtuosic, not hurried or haphazard.
And the artists? Here's just a sampling of heavy hitters that have gotten up here:
TRACY168, CRASH, CES, KLOPS, OG MILLIE, JULES MUCK, BELOW KEY, CONE, CHRIS STAIN, JPO, JASON NAYLOR, DJKaySlay (DEZ), DUSTER, RIET, WANEcod, KING BEE, PINKY WEBER, OSIRIS RAIN, PLASMA SLUG, RESO914, COMMODORE (CDRE), SEK FINK, HIRAKU ...
Eager to learn more? Read on!
TRACY168 and JPS
The Drip Project
Art curator Harris Lobel began the Drip Project about five years ago; he now co-curates the initiative with artist Sean Sullivan (aka LAYERCAKE). But while The Mes Hall is Lobel's first art initiative in Westchester County, he is no neophyte to mobilizing art in vast spaces:
This fall, he and Sullivan curated HG Contemporary's Grand Opening exhibit in Williamsburg/BK. Last year, Lobel curated The Bridgeport Art Tower, converting an old school into a mural-festooned art destination. In 2017, Lobel and Sullivan invited prominent street/graffiti artists to get up inside a 9,000 square-foot mansion in Glen Cove, Long Island -- transforming it into First City Project.
The Drip Project came together ~2013, explained Lobel. "I was working with graffiti legend TRACY168, trying to help him make a comeback to the art world. One of my jobs with him was to go over previous works that he has painted over the years and see what was still living. One day on Instagram, I saw that one of my friends was recording music at this studio in Mount Vernon, and in the background of his post I saw a TRACY168 mural I never saw before. I reached out, and [that friend] connected me to the owner of the space -- Chris/'Mes'." We got to talking, and I told Chris I had a lot of friends in the graffiti industry who would love to paint this establishment. He gave me complete creative control, and I started my passion project -- the Drip Project."
As the Drip Project evolved, Lobel honed his vision alongside a selective group of artists and co-curators. "We are a strong team of friends who are all successful in our own ways separately, so when we come together it's always special," said Lobel. "Chris 'Mes' Vinson, owner of The Mes Hall, has been a major player in building this project. And artist RESO914 has helped bring in lots of talent," he continues.
But Lobel is especially grateful to Drip Project co-curator Sean Sullivan/LAYERCAKE, an elite NYC artist who’s exhibited his work around the globe and whose roots in The Mes Hall extend back fourteen years.
It was Sullivan who long ago convinced graffiti legend TRACY168 to get up inside one of The Mes Hall's corridors. The impact of that particular TRACY168 wall was far-reaching, "eventually inspiring and evolving into the Drip Project," Lobel explains. "Sean Sullivan has brought nothing but heavy hitters here, and has big plans for its unveiling."
Sean Sullivan (LAYERCAKE) and RESO914
Photo shot by Lonnie Richards and provided to SOLD by Harris Lobel
Visiting the Drip Project
"It's not public yet, we are working on that. For now, contact one of us," said Chris "Mes" Vinson.
"At this point, we are only letting people come who reach out to us personally for private tours," adds Harris Lobel. "But we plan on [eventually] being open to the public a few days a week, so everyone can come enjoy the artwork."
Prospective visitors should reach out to Harris Lobel and Chris "Mes" Vinson on Instagram: @_harrisL and @chrismestopher .
Permission granted, ride the Metro North (RED) New Haven Line; exit at Mount Vernon East station. Then head 0.3 miles southeast to 255 Washington Street. It's a six minute walk or three minute drive, according to Google Maps.
The Mes Hall
#DripProject tags co-mingle so frequently with #TheMesHall tags on Instagram, it's easy to think both monikers represent a single venture. But while The Mes Hall and The Drip Project share the same surface-mail address -- Washington Street, Mount Vernon NY -- the two are distinct entities. The Drip Project is an art initiative; The Mes Hall is a fully rented place-of-business on the grounds that's adorned -- inside and out -- in Drip Project art.
Founded in 2001 by Riverdale/Bronx native Chris "Mes" Vinson, The Mes Hall is part artistic community, part co-working space. Creatives of all disciplines flock to the site and book sessions at The Mes Hall's recording studios or use it for film/photography. Vast, open swaths of space at the site have proven to be ideal event spaces and pop-up shops.
"The Mes Hall is about music, art, and culture. It started out as a business -- as a one-stop-shop for me to create my music -- and then it just evolved into this much bigger thing," said Vinson in a promotional video for the Drip Project.
Vinson himself is a producer, DJ, drummer, and art lover who started making beats when he was just 17.
"I thought The Mes Hall was a good name for a studio for two reasons," he said. "First, when I wrote graffiti, my tag was MES. Second, if you've been to the military, sleep-away camp, or jail, The Mes Hall is where we eat. So as starving artists, we eat in The Mes Hall."
The brick-and-mortar complex itself? Vinson said the buildings went up ~1930s; they originally served as a Borden's milk factory.
Mount Vernon FAQ
Q: How far "upstate" is Mount Vernon?
A: Mount Vernon is not upstate, it's much closer. "Upstate New York" officially excludes the Lower Hudson Valley, of which Mount Vernon is a part. If you're headed to Mount Vernon from midtown, expect a 20mile/50min trip by car or a 27-minute train ride out of Grand Central Terminal.
"It's more affordable than New York City, but just minutes away," Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas recently told the Yonkers Tribune.
Q: Gargantuan industrial space. Deftly executed works by celebrated graffiti and street artists. Why is this art destination in Mount Vernon and not New York City?
1) The most exciting places to be are where change is happening. And Mount Vernon is going in big on both "change" and "happening." Last year, C.J. Hughes of The New York Times even-handedly portrayed Mount Vernon as a city "that has struggled with crime, blight and unemployment." But transformation beckons: the city's job growth over the next 10 years is estimated at a whopping 39.3%.
2) Creative Mojo. "We have the talent -- arts and culture have long been part of Mount Vernon's DNA ," Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas has said. And that assessment is without hyperbole: Denzel Washington, E.B. White, Sean Combs, and Heavy D number among the creative luminaries who grew up in Mount Vernon.
3) Proximity. "Physically, Mount Vernon is close to the city and located on the train line so [the Drip Project] has a chance for hundreds of thousands of people to see it everyday," said Lobel.
4) The 2016 election of Mayor Richard W. Thomas. Said Harris Lobel: "Mount Vernon has a young mayor in charge who is looking to uplift the community through arts and culture."
Learn more about the Drip Project, The Mes Hall, and its peeps!
OG MILLIE Jimi Hendrix portrait nearing completion
OSIRIS RAIN, finished wall
SUBWAY DOODLE, process shot