If you’ve walked along Delancey Street in the last two weeks, by the busy intersections approaching the Williamsburg Bridge, you may have noticed that the fences enclosing the parking lots have been decorated with a lively new mural. On Wednesday, the Lower East Side Business Improvement District (LES BID) celebrated the second of two new public art projects in the neighborhood (read about the Division Street mural here).
The Delancey Street piece was designed by Boym Partners Inc., a husband-and-wife team made up of Laurene Leon Boym and Constantin Boym. The two have lived on the Lower East Side for more than 20 years and were selected through an online design competition. After having their project approved, the Boyms finished all the art that was required for the 8-foot-by-400-foot mural in about three weeks, Boym said. Some of the figures on the piece were adapted from one of the Boyms’ previous projects, “Babel Blocks,” while nine other characters were developed for the fence.
The original Babel Blocks are a set of wooden toys meant to showcase the cultural and religious diversity of New York City. They were included in the “Design & the Elastic Mind” exhibition at the MoMa and won the National Design Award in 2009. Each character has its own name and distinct clothing; some even starred in their own stop-motion videos. The History Fence mural possesses a similar mission and features 12 distinctly hand-drawn “characters,” an homage to the unique individuals who live, work and spend time on the Lower East Side.
Laurene Leon Boym shared a little more about the larger goals of the art piece.
“Ever since the 1950s, people have been painting pictures of their families and friends around the neighborhood, but since gentrification, we don’t see so much of that any more,” said Boym.
The Boyms’ goal was to take that idea and make it into a historical tribute to the neighborhood, and chose to feature characters that are built on archetypes of our neighbors: a doughnut chef, a hipster and an Asian family. There’s also a teenage skateboarder, who is based off of Boym’s son.
The Boyms wanted the project to be beautifying but also interactive.
“I just think that it’s good for the neighborhood in general, to have anything that is like a conversation piece for the residents, or for people who are on the bridge, or for people to take selfies next to,” she said.
The mural will be displayed for about 18 months, the BID’s Natalie Raben said.