Brush with fame: Kids paint mural with acclaimed artist in Coney

Brooklyn Paper
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Photo gallery

Banner day: Sideshow banner artist Marie Roberts designed and painted a mural with local school kids.
Students hard at work on the mural.
Right this way!: The mural directs visitors toward the rest of Coney’s art walls.
The eyes have it: French street artist Kashink’s signiture four-eyed forms.
A rich tapestry: Some murals pay homage to Coney Island, right, and others are more abstract.
Punch lines: Tattoo artist Mister Cartoon’s bruising piece.
Braiiiiinfreeze: Even zombies can enjoy an egg cream.

They drew on the People’s Playground’s colorful past!

An internationally acclaimed artist taught school kids a little history — and how to paint in the traditional freak-show banner style — as part of the Coney Art Walls installation. Sodom by the Sea is known for amusements and abnormalities, but a light bulb went off when the artist was coming up with the theme, and she decided to highlight the area’s unsung history of scientific innovation, she said.

“People think of Coney one-dimensionally — it’s honky-tonk fun — but at the turn of the last century, this was a place for technology,” said Coney Island USA artist-in-residence Marie Roberts, who has shown in galleries in the city, London, and Korea. “One hundred years ago, light bulbs were for the rich. People came down here and saw light bulbs for the first time. Immigrants arriving here on ships [in the early 1900s] did not see the Statue of Liberty, they saw the lights on Coney Island.”

The mural is painted in the traditional sideshow banner style with cartoonish figures, bold lines, and vibrant colors, and it features Granville T. Woods — who invented the electric roller coaster and debuted it in Coney — and Dr. Martin A. Couney — who put premature babies on exhibit and charged 25 cents a peek to pay for the infants’ medical bills.

Roberts worked with about a dozen city school kids from the Thrive Collective, which teaches life skills through painting, an organizer said.

“We make the process of painting a mural into easy, incremental steps — a large part of what we do is personal development, teaching confidence. The murals act as the stage or backdrop for students to find their voice, but also to learn how to fail.”

Roberts and crew started the project on Aug. 1 and were putting the finishing touches on at the end of the week, she said. It will be on display along with dozens of murals painted by internationally acclaimed artists.

“We’re adding the inventors’ names so people can Google them,” Roberts said.

Coney Art Walls [3050 Stillwell Ave. between the Bowery and the Boardwalk]. Noon–10pm. Free.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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