NY Daily News, 11/03/09
Ya Don't Spray! Art is surprisingly untagged

By Mike Jaccarino | web link

It's a 14-foot-tall tagger's dream.

Yet the sculpture that has stood in front of the Bronx River Art Center has remained graffiti-free since late July.

"Of course, I expected it to be tagged the minute I turned away," said the sculpture's creator, Diego Medina, 40, of Prospect Park South.

"But I've been very pleased and surprised not to have it tagged. I want to think that the neighborhood is changing for the good," he said. "And I also want to think that the arts are helping with that change."

The unpainted plywood sculpture at West Farms Square Plaza, entitled Aurora, was formally unveiled to the public last Thursday. And officials were not only celebrating the piece, but heralding the changing face of the neighborhood the still-pristine piece of artwork represents.

"When we first approached the project, our first concern was that whatever we put up would be tagged pretty fast," said Jose Ruiz, the 34-year-old gallery director and curator for the Bronx River Art Center.

"But we've noticed the area is changing a lot. Even our building. We had to paint over it at least once a week, and now it's subsided. Maybe once a season we have to paint," said Ruiz. "There are still taggers out there, but they might be gravitating toward other areas."

The sculpture - six interlocking geometric shapes - was inspired by the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca's 1930 poem, "La Aurora de Nueva York" (Dawn in New York), said Medina. It will remain in the plaza for 11 months.

"It has an element that is kind of edgy and hip hop, and that's maybe why [the taggers] can relate to it as a work of art," said Ruiz. "I think they can tell that this was made by a young artist that is perhaps in the same conversation as they are artistically.

"If it was something that was made by an older artist or out of touch, maybe something that was really polished, it would have been tagged."

"In the bigger scheme, the neighborhood is changing a lot. I've been at the center for three years, and I can definitely tell a difference between now and then. Crime has gone down."

Medina has a message for any would-be taggers or graffiti artists.

"They expect people to respect and appreciate their work," he said. "I ask them the same thing."

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DIRECTIONS TO CENTER:  By Train: Take #2 or #5 to West Farms Square/East Tremont. Walk one block east to Bronx Street. By Bus: Take #'s B9, 21, 36, 40, 42, or Q44 to East Tremont and Boston Road. By Car: Take Bruckner Expressway to Sheridan Expressway, and exit at East Tremont Ave. Turn left at the traffic light one block down onto East Tremont. Turn left after one block onto Bronx St. (Cross Bronx Expressway) towards Rosedale Ave, then exit. Turn left onto Rosedale Ave, then take a left onto Tremont Ave. Drive four blocks to West Farms Square.

This program is made possible with support from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, including Council Members Eric Dinowitz, Althea Stevens, Kristy Marmorato and the Bronx Delegation. Additional support is from Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, the NYS Council on the Arts with support from Governor Kathy Hochul and the NYS Legislature. Foundation support is from Con Edison: The Power of Giving, The New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund, The Lincoln Fund, and private donors.

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