Sunday, January 13, 2013

Ben Eine in the Bronx...

Yesterday morning, before any of the shops opened I set on a mission to go and find some Ben Eine street art in the Bronx.

I knew about Eine's work before I knew who he was, and on our recent day trip to London I saw a load of his pieces around Shoreditch... I think I'd actually seen one of his pieces in Bushwick a while ago, a shop shutter with a big E painted on it.

Anyway, he does a lot of typographic pieces all over the world and I had read that he'd decorated some shop shutters in the Bronx with his trademark big letters. So I set off hoping to get to the Bronx before opening time, so the shutters would still be down.

I had to ride the A train all the way to the end of the line, up to 207th St in an area of the Bronx called Inwood. Inwood feels like 'real' New York, what I imagine Brooklyn would have felt like 10 years ago. It had a strong community feel to it, but a community that were struggling. Lots of shops had closed, there streets were dirtier than other areas of New York and there were lots of people selling clothes on the street or sorting through charity donations.

It's amazing how much New York varies in such a small space - up on 101st Street you've got millionaire livings in Penthouse apartments over looking the park, but travel 10 blocks up into Harlem and you've got people struggling to pay their rent and buy food. It seems things get harder the higher you travel, Inwood felt a million miles away from all the shops of 5th Avenue!

Despite looking like it was on slightly hard times, all the people seemed to know each other, they were all chatting and laughing and it was much more of a community spirit than you get in a lot of other places in New York - I imagine everyone knows their neighbour and looks out for each other...

Despite seeing someone getting patted down and (I think) arrested, it was a pretty safe and interesting area to be in... I think I probably stuck out like a sore thumb, but no-one minded me being there.

Anyway - I eventually found the shutters. Although I walked down Sherman Ave (where I thought they were) and couldn't see them, I was almost at the end of the street and had assumed I was too late and the shutters were up, or they'd gone. So I decided to go and get a coffee (and a donut, shhh!) at Dunkin Donuts to make my trip a little more worth while... then just as I was walking up to Dunkin Donuts, I saw them...
 Some of the shutters were up, so I didn't get the whole effect of the entire row of shops spelling something, but it was good to see them, and it was funny to think that just a couple of weeks ago we were in London seeing work by the same artists.

It wasn't the most successful street-art adventure, or the most impressive street-art - but it was interesting to get to see a part of New York that I probably would never have thought of going to otherwise.

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