If you want to see some amazing murals, look no further than New York City. For the last 50 years, this has been one of the top spots to see street art.
Graffiti went from names written in bubble letters on train cars to notable historical figures painted on multi-story buildings. The murals viewable throughout New York City are impressive pieces of art.
Join us as we travel through the city to some of the hottest spots for mural art.
The Significance of Murals in New York City
It’s no surprise that New York City is home to many gorgeous murals. Since the 1970s, walls and subway cars have provided street artists with canvases to hone their skills.
But the early days of graffiti in the Big Apple were much different than what we see today. Back then, kids would spray paint their names or tags wherever they could reach. Of course, none of this was legally-created art, which was half the fun of doing it.
It wasn’t long before what some would consider real art appeared on city walls. Paintings of people, animals, cityscapes, and images about social and environmental issues began popping up.
Now, instead of street artists illegally painting walls, city organizations and government offices often commission them to create themed art. Murals around New York City depict political, environmental, and social images.
But there’s still plenty of nighttime guerilla art painted around the city. The anonymous graffiti artist Banksy occasionally leaves his mark, letting fans know he was around.
While some New York City murals may be relatively small, others cover entire walls of multi-floor buildings. For your next visit to NYC, check out any or all of these five places to fill your eyes with fantastic art.
While most artists create wall pieces using some form of paint, Harlem is home to some glass mosaic murals. At the 125th Street subway station, a series depicts influential Black people flying over well-known Harlem locations.
Another mosaic mural commissioned by a bank in 2005 showing dancers and musicians was almost lost forever. In 2017, a new sneaker store moved into the building. They covered the mural with bricks, but after the community voiced concerns, they uncovered it.
Another well-known and lasting mural in this neighborhood is the Crack is Wack piece painted on a handball court. In 1986, famed graffiti artist Keith Haring painted it during NYC’s crack epidemic. The mural received fresh paint in 2019, giving it new life.
And located in a Harlem schoolyard is the Graffiti Hall of Fame. A trip to New York City to check out murals must include a stop here. Some of the most well-known graffiti artists from around the world grace these walls with their artwork. It’s an ever-changing piece of public art.
#2 Bushwick Collective
In 2012, resident Joe Ficalora created the Bushwick Collective. As he was growing up, the neighborhood was a high-crime area. In fact, when Joe was ten, his father was stabbed to death. Years later, in 2011, he lost his mom to cancer.
Creating an art space was a way for Joe to cope with the loss of his parents and help beautify the neighborhood. He invited muralists from around the world to paint empty warehouse walls lining the streets.
Since then, it’s been a constantly-changing public art gallery. And Joe hosts an annual block party every summer where artists come to add fresh paint to the walls. It’s become quite the event, with vendors and musicians lining the streets as artists create new murals.
#3 Welling Court Mural Project
The Welling Court Mural Project (WCMP) is in New York City’s Queens neighborhood. In 2009, residents Jonathan and Georgina Ellis contacted a local art collective to see if they would help add beauty to the area.
It was a pretty rough part of Queens in need of serious attention. This project helped improve the neighborhood by creating a safe and fun space for the community to come together. Well-known NYC graffiti artists, including Lady Pink and Daze, added murals to the area.
The walls aren’t open to just anyone painting them. Interested artists can apply to contribute their work, but there’s usually a waitlist since limited space is available. And the WCMP has non-profit status through a sponsoring organization, so they can accept donations to keep going.
Since it began, this project has helped bring the community together in beneficial ways. It nurtures creativity in residents and allows for outreach to neighboring areas to encourage artists to visit Welling Court. And it also brings tourists who wouldn’t otherwise know about the neighborhood.
#4 World Trade Mural Project
The World Trade Mural Project dates back to 2013. It brought together the world of finance and art in a creative way. The new Four World Trade Center developer contacted a local art gallery owner. Together, they invited artists to paint the wall on one floor of the building.
However, only tenants and visitors to the Center could see the artwork. Not long after the completion of the art wall, the construction of a new building broke ground. The same developer wanted the public to be able to see the amazing artwork from local artists.
Ground-level walls on the new Two World Trade Center will prominently display artwork from local artists. The building isn’t yet complete, but the art is already going up around the perimeter.
Stickymonger, Ben Angotti, and Hektad are among many New York City artists adding murals to the project. From Fulton to Vesey Streets, between Church and Greenwich Streets, visitors can see 21 different muralists represented.
#5 First Street Green Art Park
Located at 33 East 1st Street in Manhattan, this project revitalized a section of the city needing improvement. First Street Green (FSG) group collaborated with local city organizations to create a community art space and garden.
On Earth Day in 2011, FSG launched its first season of art workshops and cultural events. Murals created by international artists help add color and beauty to the park.
Local graffiti artists represent a large portion of the artwork on the walls. Interested muralists can submit proposals to FSG for a chance to add their work to the park.
Additionally, FSG’s Community Mural School provides free workshops to people of all ages. Artists offer hands-on instruction and guidance to anyone wishing to learn the art of creating murals.
Tour New York City’s Murals
It seems impossible to visit New York City without seeing at least a handful of murals. But now you know some of the best areas to see incredible street art from emerging and well-known artists.
These five neighborhoods are just the tip of the mural iceberg in NYC. Walking through the city, you’re bound to find many more excellent places displaying artwork from artists near and far.
Which New York City area is your favorite for mural art? Let us know in the comments below.
Outside Folk Gallery
You can explore folk, street, and outsider art in our personal collection at Outside Folk Art. We’re celebrating these creatives and giving voice to rising black, Native, immigrant, and working mother artisans.
We’ll also be offering pop-up shows and collaborations with small museums, so be sure to follow us to discover the where and when!