FORT GEORGE — Six artists, including well-known names from the street art world, have been selected to transform the drab 191st Street tunnel into a vibrant passageway beginning Monday.
The Department of Transportation selected the artists from a pool of 158 applicants, the most proposals ever received for a single project, the agency said. The winners include well-known street artists Andrea Von Bujdoss, who goes by the name Queen Andrea, and Fernando Carlo Jr., aka Cope2.
The DOT also selected Nelson Rivas, a Chilean-born muralist who goes by the name Cekis; Nick Kuzsyk, who specializes in geometric designs and Jessie Unterhalter and Katey Truhn, a Baltimore-based duo who focuses on creating art for public spaces.
“The outcome is going to be incredible,” Emily Colasacco, director of the DOT’s public art program, told residents at a Monday meeting of Community Board 12’s transportation committee. “We can't wait to see it.”
Each of the artists or teams will be given a 200-foot section of the 900-foot tunnel to paint. The designs range from an almost psychedelic geometric pattern to a mural designed to transport viewers from the urban jungle to the rainforest.
Members of the transportation committee were wowed by the designs when the DOT presented the project at Monday night’s meeting.
“Will you get 3-D glasses to walk through the tunnel now too?” asked committee member Mary Anderson.
Von Bujdoss, an Uptown resident, was chosen to paint the tunnels’ Broadway entrance, which currently features a 2008 piece by the Groundswell Community Mural Project. The mural has been damaged over the years by vandalism.
The art installation marks the final step in a monthslong process to improve conditions in the tunnel.
In the fall of 2014, the DOT installed brighter LED lights in the space, which residents previously described as “dark” and “creepy.” The tunnel also received new safety mirrors and a fresh coat of paint. However, within a few months, the blank walls were again tagged with graffiti.
Some residents expressed concerns that the new paintings could also fall victim to the same fate.
“Have you thought about vandalism?” asked one man who attended the meeting. “I mean, how will you protect this art?”
Colasacco said that they are hoping the names involved with the project will discourage future vandalism.
“We find that the majority of our works by highly respected artists don’t get tagged,” she told residents.
Some artists like Cope2, who has produced a lot of work in The Bronx and Washington Heights, already have name recognition within the community, Colasacco explained.
“When we were on site recently, a younger gentleman stopped and asked for an autograph from him,” she said. “We have a celebrity on hand here.”
The artists will begin preliminary work on the designs on May 11 and will complete the murals by May 19. The tunnel will be closed to traffic from 10:30 p.m. on May 15 to 5 a.m. on May 19 to allow for painting.