By Jenna Tipaldo
At first glance, 827 Castleton Avenue in Staten Island seems like any typical block in America with small neighborhood businesses. But there’s a hidden, unassuming alleyway with a different perspective of this strip. #ArtistAlleySI is spray painted on the side of the building that houses the Richmond Hood Company — a shop that sells apparel, footwear and accessories.
Artist Alley is using art to engage the Staten Island community around the topic of climate change. On the wall of a two-story brick building is a giant, colorful hurricane — shaped like the logo of the Wu-Tang Clan — floating over the Atlantic Ocean. The headline above reads: “‘Breakin’: Climate Change Ain’t Nuttin to Mess Wit.” Funded in part by the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and Staten Island Arts, local artist Cory Prez’s Wu-Tang-inspired mural is a good fit for this part of the city. The famous hip hop group has its roots in Staten Island. The project even prompted a visit from the Wu-Tang Clan producer and DJ, Mathematics.
Near Prez’s mural, students from William Morris I.S. 61 created a mural of their own. Tariq Said of the Richmond Hood Company explains, “We did a workshop of public art and climate change with the 8th grade art students from William Morris I.S. 61 which is a school a few blocks away… and by surprise we gave them a piece of public art canvas. What they came up with — it’s pretty awesome. It is a mural that says ‘It’s not too late.’”
“It’s kind of hard to not take notice of children who are consciously saying something of a matter that affects all of us, youth and adults and elders alike.” Said hopes that the murals in Artist Alley will continue to engage the community in conversations about climate change.