FORT GREENE/DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN – Back in May, Alloy Development issued a call for submissions seeking an artist to create temporary large-scale murals on the exterior of its 80 Flatbush project. Earlier this month, the firm announced that Brooklyn artist Katie Merz was awarded the project.
Merz started work on 80 Flatbush (between State and Schermerhorn Streets) two weeks ago, covering the lower portion of the walls with her signature, bold, black-and-white graphics representing iconic images of Brooklyn’s past, present, and future.
The names of neighborhoods (Borough Park, Canarsie, Coney Island, Gowanus, Sheepshead Bay) and famous Brooklynites (Biggie Smalls, Foxy Brown, Mos Def, Spike Lee) are interspersed among basketball hoops, boomboxes, BAM, a Nathan’s hot dog, the Wonder Wheel, the Fort Greene monument, the 9th Street bridge, and the giant Goya can that used to be displayed on a billboard in Gowanus beside the BQE.
A Brooklyn native, Merz grew up on the eastern edge of Brooklyn Heights and currently lives in Boerum Hill. Her artwork consists of white oilstick drawings on a black background, reminiscent of a chalkboard or Keith Haring, that mixes “graffiti, coding, and pictographic language,” according to Alloy’s announcement. She has completed similar murals in Williamsburg and Mexico.
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“People are contributing ideas to the wall,” Merz told BKLYNER on Monday. “People are stopping by and being a part of my drawings.”
Her mural for 80 Flatbush is inspired by her surroundings as well as conversations she has with passersby, neighbors, and the staff at the NYC Human Resources Administration office who currently occupy the building.
“It’s a blast. I’m having so much fun it’s ridiculous,” she said. “I love the people in there [the employees in the building], they’re great. I’m taking their pictures. They’re giving me info about themselves that I’m putting up on the wall. They’re giving me copies of Brooklyn icons and emojis [that they want included]. Every time they come out, they have all these print-outs,” she says laughing.
Merz was selected out of 60 artists for the project and receives $50,000 to cover materials, equipment rental, and other relevant expenses. She hopes to have the mural completed before the NYC Marathon, which passes by the site, in early November. Alloy will prominently showcase the work for two years before construction on the new building begins.
“It’s worth working on it so patiently knowing that it’s going to be up for so long,” she says. Merz is happy to be able to share her work with a wide audience. “The nice thing for me is everybody is here. It’s not like an exclusive art viewing,” she says of the public art.
Merz hopes her eye-catching mural will “slow down time on this strip” and help people be more present by slowing down to “read” her work and take it all in.
Stop by 80 Flatbush to see Merz at work and to offer your ideas of what Brooklyn icons should be included in her mural. You can also check out her work on Instagram.