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A Guide to 10 NYC Murals You Should Check Out Right Now

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Art may not actually be everywhere, but in New York, you can find it in every neighborhood, likely in the form of a mural. Many of the city's most famous frescoes may be behind closed doors, but from St. Albans to the South Street Seaport, dozens of artworks line the streets and give life to blank building walls. So for Outdoors Week, we mapped 10 of our favorites that can be enjoyed in the open air.


—Evan Bindelglass is a local freelance journalist, photographer, cinephile, and foodie. You can e-mail him, follow him on Twitter @evabin, or check out his personal blog.
· All Public Art [Curbed]
· Outdoors Week 2014 [Curbed]

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1. Crack Is Wack, 1986

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E 127th St & 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10035
(212) 639-9675
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Many driving by this mural on a handball court off the Harlem River Drive have wondered if it was graffiti. Originally, it was, and artist Keith Haring was fined $25 for it. But then someone changed his work to make it say “Crack Is It,” which led a maintenance team to paint over the entire thing. Upon learning this, Parks Commissioner Henry Stern apologized to Haring and allowed him to recreate the anti-drug statement. The surrounding playground is also called the Crack is Wack Playground. [Photo via NYC Parks Dept.]

2. Bowery Mural, 2008

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E. Houston St.
New York, NY 10012

Arguably the most recognizable outdoor mural space in all of New York City, the Bowery Mural wall has been legally hosting the work of different artists since 2008, but Keith Haring and Juan Dubose first painted the space in 1982. When wall-owner Goldman Properties started commissioning, the first piece was a tribute to the original. Currently, a bright, geometric piece by Maya Hayuk dons the wall.

3. Peck Slip Arcade, 1978

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43 Peck Slip
New York, NY 10038

Con Ed commissioned Richard Haas to paint the side of its South Street Seaport substation. According to author Glenn Palmer-Smith, Haas successfully “neutralized the substation’s twentieth-century utilitarian intrusion” into its surroundings by providing a vision of days long past and of the Brooklyn Bridge, which is blocked by the building. [Photo courtesy Richard Haas]

4. Spirit of East Harlem, 1978

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160 East 104th Street
New York, NY 10029

This was the first outdoor mural created by Hank Prussing, a Pratt student from Maryland. The artist began planning the mural in the summer of 1973, taking hundreds of photographs of the neighborhood and its residents. Rev. George Calvert of the Church of the Living Hope even managed to get local stores to donate paint and scaffolding to the project. Prussing completed the mural in 1978. [Photo via Google Maps]

5. V-J Day in Times Square, 2012

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534 West 25th Street
New York, NY 10001

Eduardo Kobra bright and colorful mural at West 25th Street and 10th Avenue recreates Alfred Eisenstaedt's famous photo of two people kissing in Times Square to celebrate the end of World War II on August 14, 1945. It’s popular with the Instagram crew, and it's best viewed from the High Line. [Photo via Jack Berman/Curbed Flickr pool]

6. Glockenspiel Mural, 2005

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458 East 83rd Street
New York, NY 10028

This is a cool trick on the eye, but it came to be because the Jules Demchick, who developed the high-rise across the street, was unhappy with his graffiti-covered neighbor. So, he asked the building’s owner for permission to paint a mural on it. The owner agreed, and Richard Haas was hired.

7. Mark Morris Dance Center, 2012

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3 Lafayette Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11217
(718) 624-8400

Vanity Fair and Cadillac commissioned Barry McGee to create this mural as part of their “Art in the Streets” project in 2012. It measures 70 feet tall and 100 feet wide, and took 10 days to paint. Many of McGee's pseudonyms and slang are featured in the work, which is located on the wall of the Mark Morris Dance Center in Fort Greene. Pimple and Fong are street names, DFW stands for "Down for Whatever," and THR means for "The Harsh Reality." [Photo via Google Maps]

8. Jazz Legends Mural, repainted 2004

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180-5 Linden Boulevard
Jamaica, NY 11434

Tucked beneath an LIRR overpass on Linden Boulevard, this mural features jazz legends Billie Holiday, Count Basie, John Coltrane, Lena Horne, and Ella Fitzgerald, and sports legends Jackie Robinson and Tommy “Hurricane” Jackson. All of the figures depicted lived in St. Albans, the Queens' neighborhood where the mural is located. It's unclear when it was first painted—several sources say it's "decades old" but give no exact date—but it was fully restored in 2004. [Photo via Google Maps]

9. Lead Safe House, 2004

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2183 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10032

Created by artists Christopher Cardinale and Youme Landowne, this six-story mural was a collaboration between the Groundswell art group and community organization and the Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation. It's located on the side of the Lead Safe House Building, which is the home base for NMIC's programs about lead poisoning. Washington Heights and Inwood have more children at risk of lead poisoning than any other neighborhood, and the mural features "large embracing hands that separate the threat of lead poisoning from the figures in the mural and represent the maternal embrace and a protective force."[Photo courtesy Groundswell]

10. Brownsville Moving Forward, 2014

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1788 Pitkin Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11212

Previously a blank, red, brick wall, this project is another from the Groundswell organization. Not even a month old, it was designed to create an “inviting gateway” to the neighborhood and was created by 17 young artists on probation working with lead artist Chris Soria. It is part of a two-year public art project called “Transform/Restore: Brownsville.” The goal of the project is to remake vandalized walls with murals painted by young adults on probation. [Photo courtesy Groundswell]

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1. Crack Is Wack, 1986

E 127th St & 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10035

Many driving by this mural on a handball court off the Harlem River Drive have wondered if it was graffiti. Originally, it was, and artist Keith Haring was fined $25 for it. But then someone changed his work to make it say “Crack Is It,” which led a maintenance team to paint over the entire thing. Upon learning this, Parks Commissioner Henry Stern apologized to Haring and allowed him to recreate the anti-drug statement. The surrounding playground is also called the Crack is Wack Playground. [Photo via NYC Parks Dept.]

E 127th St & 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10035

2. Bowery Mural, 2008

E. Houston St., New York, NY 10012

Arguably the most recognizable outdoor mural space in all of New York City, the Bowery Mural wall has been legally hosting the work of different artists since 2008, but Keith Haring and Juan Dubose first painted the space in 1982. When wall-owner Goldman Properties started commissioning, the first piece was a tribute to the original. Currently, a bright, geometric piece by Maya Hayuk dons the wall.

E. Houston St.
New York, NY 10012

3. Peck Slip Arcade, 1978

43 Peck Slip, New York, NY 10038

Con Ed commissioned Richard Haas to paint the side of its South Street Seaport substation. According to author Glenn Palmer-Smith, Haas successfully “neutralized the substation’s twentieth-century utilitarian intrusion” into its surroundings by providing a vision of days long past and of the Brooklyn Bridge, which is blocked by the building. [Photo courtesy Richard Haas]

43 Peck Slip
New York, NY 10038

4. Spirit of East Harlem, 1978

160 East 104th Street, New York, NY 10029

This was the first outdoor mural created by Hank Prussing, a Pratt student from Maryland. The artist began planning the mural in the summer of 1973, taking hundreds of photographs of the neighborhood and its residents. Rev. George Calvert of the Church of the Living Hope even managed to get local stores to donate paint and scaffolding to the project. Prussing completed the mural in 1978. [Photo via Google Maps]

160 East 104th Street
New York, NY 10029

5. V-J Day in Times Square, 2012

534 West 25th Street, New York, NY 10001

Eduardo Kobra bright and colorful mural at West 25th Street and 10th Avenue recreates Alfred Eisenstaedt's famous photo of two people kissing in Times Square to celebrate the end of World War II on August 14, 1945. It’s popular with the Instagram crew, and it's best viewed from the High Line. [Photo via Jack Berman/Curbed Flickr pool]

534 West 25th Street
New York, NY 10001

6. Glockenspiel Mural, 2005

458 East 83rd Street, New York, NY 10028

This is a cool trick on the eye, but it came to be because the Jules Demchick, who developed the high-rise across the street, was unhappy with his graffiti-covered neighbor. So, he asked the building’s owner for permission to paint a mural on it. The owner agreed, and Richard Haas was hired.

458 East 83rd Street
New York, NY 10028

7. Mark Morris Dance Center, 2012

3 Lafayette Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217

Vanity Fair and Cadillac commissioned Barry McGee to create this mural as part of their “Art in the Streets” project in 2012. It measures 70 feet tall and 100 feet wide, and took 10 days to paint. Many of McGee's pseudonyms and slang are featured in the work, which is located on the wall of the Mark Morris Dance Center in Fort Greene. Pimple and Fong are street names, DFW stands for "Down for Whatever," and THR means for "The Harsh Reality." [Photo via Google Maps]

3 Lafayette Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11217

8. Jazz Legends Mural, repainted 2004

180-5 Linden Boulevard, Jamaica, NY 11434

Tucked beneath an LIRR overpass on Linden Boulevard, this mural features jazz legends Billie Holiday, Count Basie, John Coltrane, Lena Horne, and Ella Fitzgerald, and sports legends Jackie Robinson and Tommy “Hurricane” Jackson. All of the figures depicted lived in St. Albans, the Queens' neighborhood where the mural is located. It's unclear when it was first painted—several sources say it's "decades old" but give no exact date—but it was fully restored in 2004. [Photo via Google Maps]

180-5 Linden Boulevard
Jamaica, NY 11434

9. Lead Safe House, 2004

2183 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10032

Created by artists Christopher Cardinale and Youme Landowne, this six-story mural was a collaboration between the Groundswell art group and community organization and the Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation. It's located on the side of the Lead Safe House Building, which is the home base for NMIC's programs about lead poisoning. Washington Heights and Inwood have more children at risk of lead poisoning than any other neighborhood, and the mural features "large embracing hands that separate the threat of lead poisoning from the figures in the mural and represent the maternal embrace and a protective force."[Photo courtesy Groundswell]

2183 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10032

10. Brownsville Moving Forward, 2014

1788 Pitkin Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11212

Previously a blank, red, brick wall, this project is another from the Groundswell organization. Not even a month old, it was designed to create an “inviting gateway” to the neighborhood and was created by 17 young artists on probation working with lead artist Chris Soria. It is part of a two-year public art project called “Transform/Restore: Brownsville.” The goal of the project is to remake vandalized walls with murals painted by young adults on probation. [Photo courtesy Groundswell]

1788 Pitkin Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11212