50 new murals TO SEE in Harlem
Looking for new art to see? 50 new murals have been painted along East 125th Street in Harlem, painted by 100 artists over the last two months. The murals stretch between 5th and 3rd Avenues, and wrap around a couple of the blocks.
So who is behind this massive project? Two kick-ass women! The project is coordinated by Uptown Grand Central (UGC) led by Carey King and independent Project Manager Ayana Ayo.
UGC has worked since 2013 to transform East 125th into a thriving corridor, working with small businesses and the community across East Harlem to improved the area and make it a desirable hub for businesses and visitors. There were several blocks of empty lots with those familiar green hoardings. The decision was made to bring art to brighten those up, and the Grandscale Mural Project was born (see our 2019 coverage here).
Carey King is director of Uptown Grand Central and brings a wealth of experience to the organization. Carey has worked in fields ranging from community development and food access, to community news, to inclusive education — including GrowNYC, the Corbin Hill Food Project, Sesame Street, The Sylva Herald, and as a pre-K teacher through Teach For America.
Carey lives just one block away from the East 125th Street corridor: Since joining Uptown Grand Central in June 2015, has been recognized by the NYPD 25th Precinct with a Community Service Award, named as a New York City Food Policy Center “Forty Under Forty Rising Star,” and selected as a Coro NY Neighborhood Leader.
Ayana Ayo is a Bronx native, independent cultural worker & producer specializing in street & public art. She believes in the transformative power of art to impact the social, emotional and intellectual development of individuals and society, and has remained committed to spreading and fostering these ideas and values through her work with No Longer Empty and street art focused human rights campaign, Education is Not a Crime. She spearheaded The 100 Gates Project expansion to eight new neighborhoods transforming the everyday urban landscape into a canvas for over 200 murals. Check out her portrait below!
Ayana said about her Project Manager role: ‘Two years ago I worked with Uptown Grand Central (UGC) to create, design, and implement the Grandscale Mural Project based on their goals. A major goal is creating an opportunity for artists to create freely in the public space. My role entails making sure the wall is prepped, assigning spots and at times being on the ground. The artists really do have creative control.’
CRIS midway through her beautiful mural.
Notice the red line going through the artwork? One week in, someone found a can of red spray paint and circled an entire block with it. Artists graciously returned to repair their work, with volunteers in support.
Carey's response: 'What is certain: We’re more dedicated than ever to demonstrate the truth that:
ALL parts of New York City deserve nice things.'
Jose Baez working in 90+ degree weather one weekend.
The iconic 'Harlem Sunrise' mural by Gera Lazano under elevated rail tracks.
What was it like to hold an event like this in 2021?
'With COVID we had to do things differently. The project was delayed, but it provided the opportunity to also paint on the former Pathmark site which meant more artists were able to participate. There are about 100 artists in total. There were a couple of days where there was a large artists turn out so it felt a little like a mini event. It was also great when 1-2 artists were working and I could closely watch & connect with them as they developed their ideas.
Some things that stood out to me were that artists really took it upon themselves to curate their own spots. Like the DMX colab between Blazay, Evan Bishop, Tommy the Animator and Katori Walker. The same goes for Femarchy and LadyJDay, Zane and Seinide.
A couple of artists also invited the community to get involved and help them paint like Rosa or Jess Rolls who collaborated with women from The Concourse House.
There’s also the mural Gera designed along 125th that was painted by 90 volunteers on one of the hottest days we had in June. We were literally taking brushes out of people’s hands. It was such a surprise and a statement to how much the community supports this project.' - Ayana
A small part of the GERA and community painted mural.
Beautiful portrait by Seinide.
‘Past, Present, Future’ getting up a touchup from Jose Baez
L-R Funkotron, Naaj, Nancy Mendez, Annie Merejo, Dany Peguero and Caryn Cast.
Pride Month NYC style by Lady jday
'I chose the word DREAM because I wanted to pay a tribute to the famous line by Dr King,
but I also didn’t want to be too obvious and just pick his line up and paint it. This DREAM is unique and individual, and each person has their own version.
So my mural is dedicated to the neighborhood and it’s residents, and they are entitled to interpret this DREAM however they
see fit. But my DREAM is for every human being to treat every other human being with equal kindness and respect.
It costs nothing to be kind, to show respect, and to allow others to do the same. It costs nothing to have an open mind and an OPN HEART, and extend our arms to those around us. My dream is for the world to be a kinder, more colorful place, and I’m thankful I have this street corner to try and help the world do just that.' - Jason Naylor, artist above.
Portraits of real people
'Thank you to my beautiful model Ayana, not just for being a beautiful model but for all the hard work, sweat, and heart that you put into coordinating this project, and all the projects before it!
Let’s give it up for Ayana and Carey for being the two woman show responsible for this incredible project, bringing color and art to one of the most neglected blocks in the city and creating a space for artists to create freely together.' - Kristy McCarthy.
'I am so honored as a budding female muralist to paint and learn with the great mastery of Evan Bishop,
Blazay & Tommy the Animator... I want to thank them for being so supportive in my growth and being able to rock with them on this important mural to honor his life.
I remember certain times in my life that DMX’s words really made me think and struck a cord in my heart. So I am happy to be able to do this for the community. Our hearts and love go out to Desiree and the family. We give honor and respect and pay tribute'. - Artist & Reiki practitioner Katori.
Luis’ daughter. It’s a family portrait. Start ‘em young.
Marthalicia painted photographer Monifa Perry.
Doris Rodiguez painted her neighbor in a pastoral setting.
Model Aiyana Lewis depicted by KRON NVS.
125th Street Pride by the Bronx's John CRASH Matos
L-R Art Man Dan, Zane Styles, Supergoode, Roycer, Eunhea Kim and
The Natural World
Bold roses by Adam Bomb.
A beautiful corner by Erica Purnell.
Panels by CCC Art Collective, Infamous Moke and BC.
Powerful wall by Yazmeen NYC.
Location: These murals and more can be seen on East 125th Street between 5th and 3rd Avenues, and along East 124th Street between Lexington and 3rd Avenues in East Harlem.
Subway: 4,5,6 trains to E 125th Street Station,
See more about the organizers at: