It’s a bittersweet mural piece that’s life.
On the heels of the dismantling of the high-profile Domino Sugar factory art installation by artist Kara Walker, the Williamsburg activist group El Puente has started painting a mural on a construction fence outside the complex. The 200-feet piece deals with similar themes to the epic Walker work, chronicling the exploitative economy behind the sugar industry.
“A history of sugar is a history of slavery,” said Ana O’Keefe, a member of Los Muralistas, the arts arm of El Puente, adding that the painting commissioned by developer Two Trees is no puff piece and also critiques the building-up of Williamsburg. “We wanted it to be an analysis of the development projects that are going in here as well.”
A volunteer day on Friday drew a crowd to the corner of Grand Street and Kent Avenue to help color in the lines, with volunteers of all ages lending a hand. Borough President Adams showed up to tout his support of the project.
“The neighborhood is changing rapidly, and this is sort of a storybook of what happened,” Adams said. “It’s really a powerful statement.”
Los Muralistas recruited 12 high school students to help paint the mural for pay. The students mostly hail from the group’s El Puente Academy school, and they are no slouches, working long hours under the hot sun to get the job done.
Work on the mural began on July 7, and O’Keefe said she expects it to last about six weeks. Because its canvas is on a construction fence outside the factory complex slated for development, the mural won’t be there forever, but O’Keefe said she expects it to stay up for two years.