A historic Glen Cove house is being transformed into a colorful showcase of street art and graffiti, an art form that has received increasing recognition and respect among museums and art galleries.
Nearly 150 artists from as far as Britain and Sweden, and across the United States, have painted the walls, floors and stairways of the 9,000-square-foot house near downtown, said the homeowner Joe LaPadula, a co-curator of the project.
An open house for what is known as First City Project is scheduled at the home, 149 Glen St., from 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday. After that, it will only be open to the public for special events.
Some of the art is abstract. Other work includes a photo of Andy Warhol topped with a crown, spray-paint cans behind metal wire, and cartoon images.
Francine Ferrante-Koehler, executive director of the Glen Cove Downtown Business Improvement District, said the house is “creating excitement” and bringing attention to the heart of the city. Projects like it help efforts to attract young people to live and work in Glen Cove, she said.
“This resonates with them,” Ferrante-Koehler said. “It’s a little bit edgy, a little rebellious.”
Mayor Reginald Spinello also supports the project, but City Hall fielded about a half dozen complaints after collage images dominated by a woman’s face were pasted on the exterior of the house Sunday night. Parts of the landmark-status house are 207 years old and were owned by a descendant of one of Glen Cove’s first settlers.
Special permits are required for alterations to the exterior of buildings with landmark status. Glen Cove officials asked First City to take down the exterior images after the open house, Spinello said — not because of objections to the images themselves, which First City organizers said were created by the prominent Brooklyn street artist known as DAIN — but because of its historic status.
“Art has a different meaning for everyone,” Spinello said.
Vicki Gordon, who teaches art at Glen Cove High School and contributed to the project, said street art is widely misunderstood.
“Everyone thinks it’s illegal and has to do with tagging and gang stuff,” she said. “It’s so not that. It’s such a valid form of art. ... It has everything to do with the elements of art, the principles of design, everything we teach as teachers in school. And it’s really breathtaking.”
The root of street art is in the images that for decades have been spray-painted on underpasses, subway cars and sides of buildings in New York City and elsewhere. Today, it is in high-end Manhattan galleries and at museums dedicated to the genre in Paris and St. Petersburg, Russia. Prestigious museums such as the Tate in London have mounted street-art exhibitions.
Jeffrey Deitch, a Manhattan art dealer who curated Art in the Streets at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 2011 called street art “one of the most influential art movements ever to come out of America.”
Objections to street art arise in part because of its link to illegal graffiti in outdoor public spaces, Deitch said. But, he added, “a lot of our great art forms started in the underground and eventually became above ground.”
LaPadula bought the Glen Cove house early last year as an investment and for historic preservation. He then began envisioning the house as a center for street art. LaPadula, the owner of Martino Auto Concepts in Glen Cove, broached the idea with Sean Sullivan, who has collaborated with LaPadula on painting cars with street-art techniques and then became a First City co-curator.
LaPadula said that eventually he will rent the three-floor home. A software firm already has expressed interest, he said. In the meantime, the house may host a show with the work of contributing artists, along with events such as an artisanal food fair.