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Peekskill Turns Parking into Works of Art

Guest reporter (and regular Patch blogger) Margaret Steele reports on Peekskill’s large-scale public art installation created by artists and local youth groups.

Peekskill’s newest large-scale public art installation, was unveiled on Sunday. Six giant murals are on display on the James Street Parking Garage, with several more due to go up over the next few weeks. These colorful and extremely varied banners were created by Westchester County artists and local youth groups and will remain on display for a year.

The unveiling attracted a crowd of supporters, including artists involved in the project, city officials, local residents and curious passersby, warmed by hot cider and a festive atmosphere. Several of the artists posed for photos under their murals and enthusiastically talked about their creative process.

“The Banner Project” is the latest project of Youth Mural Arts program director, Kelli Bickman, whose goal was to bring together young artists and professional mentors to create a community-engaged art project on a grand scale. Livia Straus and Jo-Ann Brody of the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art collaborated with Kelli Bickman on the project.  The designs on the banners were inspired by the HVCCA’s current exhibition, ‘Circa 1986’.

The youth groups and mentoring artists that participated in the project are: Peekskill Day Camp /Jo-Ann Brody; Peekskill Youth Bureau/Kelli Bickman; Peekskill Salvation Army/Andrew Kaminski; Greenburg Academy/Jessica Fuente; Croton-Cortlandt Center for the Arts/Jeannie Egel; Rye Art Center/Tova Snyder; selected Peekskill Youth/Lana Yu; Peekskill High School/Heather Brown; and the Art Department of Peekskill Middle School.

Funding for the project has come from Arts Westchester with additional funding from NYSCA, the Berg Foundation, Golden Acrylics, the Peekskill Educational Foundation, the Peekskill BID, Designsanything.com, and others.  The project hopes to bring on more artists and youth groups as funding allows. 

The grand unveiling of The Banner Project was in conjunction with HVCCA’s Family Art Day, which included family and youth art activities and a performance by dancer/choreographer Andrea Elam and composer Brian D. Taylor.

ted bitter December 06, 2011 at 02:18 PM
The banners are wonderful. However. The ropes hanging the Banners are not that well done. Invisible Catgut or silver wiring would do a better job. When I look at the Banners on an already unattractive Building I am distracted by the very visible dangling ropes. So I see the ropes not the Artwork. Hopefully this can be fixed.
Jill Gertz December 06, 2011 at 03:14 PM
I can't say I am a fan of these things since they seem like close to sanctioned graffiti. Look at all those ceramic installations on the wall all the way up Central Ave. Dozens of plaques made by school kids were stuck to the wall and other places. Now many of them are broken or missing, with only the globs of epoxy remaining on the walls. The benches made from the same kind of plaques are often tipped over and damaged. Central Ave looks like a hall in an elementary school after vandals attacked a school art display that has been up two years too long. Anyone getting off a train and walking up Central Ave. would have a bad impression. Hanging removable stuff off the garage isn't as bad even if the art itself isn't much better. I'm sure the kids had fun making things and that's cool. In the larger scheme I just don't like all the amateurish art (not that pros are any better these days) spread around town. The sculptures at the riverfront are awful - they look like mines. The "sculptures" at China Pier look like piles of junk waiting for trash day. The displays along Annesville Creek aren't too hot since they dont even mention Rev War encampments there but they do fish and Indians. I don't mind the mural near Paramount because that was well done (and I worked on it) and it doesn't look like a day camp did it. It would be nice to see buildings getting spruced up because Peekskill looks grim with all the dirty and broken buildings (porches collapsing etc).
Hypotenuse Jackson December 06, 2011 at 04:51 PM
Jill - you're right about the riverfront sculpture looking like a mine. When Hypo first saw that thing, he thought a Revolutionary War mine somehow got loose from its watery grave and crept up on shore. Turns out it was Art. Same thing with the orange Dutch Cheese House at the other end of the Green. It looks like it fell from the sky and just landed there.
happypatcher December 06, 2011 at 05:26 PM
Jill hit it on the head. First, the City should stay miles away from installing any art without strict supervision of a qualified artist. When left to their own devices, they just screw things up big time. The Tile project is a total abortion (despite JoAnn B's journeyman efforts), and most public art efforts started by the HVCCA have been a failure in my opinion. They conceptually have good ideas, but have consistently dropped the ball when it comes to the installation and as a result we have to look at crap. I like Kelly B, but we are getting way to much of her art all over town. The current banner project is just another example of Peekskill mediocrity. A nice idea, rushed into place, poorly installed (the current installation is a second choice that does not really work all that well), dismal PR, poor turnout at the "unveiling" and no "buzz" was generated by the city or art community. Whats the point? Were was the BID???? Poor show guys. Oh yea, what about the Rotunda "art" hangings at City Hall, Pitiful !!!!!!!! Or the sculpture at Annsville park, conceived by HVCCA, installed by the City and it has never worked, it looks like a broken McDonald's drive up kiosk in the middle of a beautiful park. The only thing that has recently worked are the tile art on the Library and Police HQ, Thanks Larry and Sone - legit artist! Kelly's youth Bureau mural is also well done. If the City want to display public art, how bout professional work not kids work. Enough is enough.
ted bitter December 06, 2011 at 05:33 PM
Negative,Negative, negative. Art is objective, and we all see what we want. But sometimes the total negativity about everything in Peekskill just gets overbearing. Constant criticisms of everything with no thought out solutions or creative ideas is just such a turnoff. Enough is Enough!!
happypatcher December 06, 2011 at 06:02 PM
if your not part of the solution you are part of the problem ted. I'm not being negative to be negative, stuff needs to be done better, it can be and should be. You run a quality shop, how bout the city taking that approach. You say art is objective, well, broken tiles, overturned tile benches or no functional art that relies on function has nothing to do with objective, it is just bad.
Katie Schmidt Feder December 06, 2011 at 06:26 PM
WOW! I saw this article about the banner project and thought "I'd like to comment and congratulate and thank Kelli Brickman for all her hard work on this project" I never anticipated to read a bunch of comments spewing negativity!! Do ANY of you who took 3-5 minutes to bash the project or other artistic projects around the city have ANY concept of the time, thought, organization, passion, energy, creativity, money, hard work and soul that goes into a project like this? I spoke to Kelli about this project a couple of months ago and she was disheartened at the lack of funding she received from BID and other sources - yet she perservered and made the project happen! For that we should all be in admiration. Art is objective. For some of us - art by children brings us absolute joy, for others it is modern art, or classical art, or the mural on Paramount East. Still- to work as hard as Kelli did and JoAnn has done- primarily for no pay I am sure- to do something to involve the youth of our community in a possitive thing - should not be judged and trashed by the community they serve. Kelli is relatively new to our community and trying to give of her art - and yet you critcize her for this? Wow - THAT KIND OF SPIRIT exhibits the Mediocrity of Peekskill - not those who make an effort to brighten the world by sharing their gifts! I pray your critisisms do not make artists (of all mediums and skill levels) want to leave Peeksill or be afraid to share their art!
Katie Schmidt Feder December 06, 2011 at 06:30 PM
I also want to follow up by saying that often as artists, the end product of our vision does not turn out the way we had hoped. Money, lack of resources, personnel, support might alter the initial vision. Yes- you can say it is disappointing the tiles in the project have broken - or may not have turned out as hoped. But - if you are an artist - you understand that what is in your head doesn't always make it out there as you had hoped. But - for this reason - should you not even try? Should only top level and recongnized artsists like Larry and Sone get a change to share their art in Peekskill. I am certain they would say no and I am certain if you asked then - that even they have had pieces that did not work out the way they had hoped, that they deemed failures or mediocre.
Jennifer Daddio December 06, 2011 at 06:39 PM
I would like to say THANK YOU to all of the artists who contributed and all who were involved in making the project happen! @Katie: Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. I think any effort that the city is making in the arts should be commended. These negative comments do nothing to help. And if those who commented are not happy, I would encourage those individuals to do something themselves to help improve the city in some way instead of writing snarky comments here.
Patty Villanova December 06, 2011 at 07:18 PM
So Kelli Bickman and JoAnn Brody were not paid for doing this project? Can anyone verify that? When I was on the BID board, Kelli B. came to us for $$$$ and wanted a substantial per hour fee for her work with the Youth Bureau mural. I'm not sure about JB, if she was getting a paycheck or not. Before you praise them as volunteers who are doing this stuff for love, make sure you have your facts straight. As far as all these so called "murals" that Bickman & Co. have been plastering around the City, in my book nothing says ghetto like these barely above the level of graffitti "murals." The ones hanging from the parking garage actually are a safety hazard as well.
happypatcher December 06, 2011 at 07:18 PM
I think you missed my point, Katie and Jennifer, I am sorry if it was unclear. The comment was not to bash the art and certainly not to bash Kelly, but to point out the cities lack of respect for its installations, upkeep and value. I congratulate the artists and am truly in support of their serious work. You can see the quality and time put into the banners and I applaud all who participated. Unfortunately after the photo op the art tends to get neglected and all the hard work, passion and time gets compromised for the worse. When I spoke of mediocrity, I am sorry if you understood it as being directed toward the artwork, it was directed again toward the cities and BIDs efforts or lack of.
Spruce Bringsteen December 06, 2011 at 07:36 PM
Congratulations to Kelli and the artists on a job well done. We need more murals, banners and such throughout the city. It always makes it more interesting when you're walking around the city to see new things like this. That said, I have to agree with some previous posters about the landmine and the orange munchkin house. There's no place for that kind of nonsense in today's artworld. One note: several people have said "art is objective". I think they mean "art is subjective".
Mary Jane December 06, 2011 at 08:03 PM
You raise a valid point, Patty. Who is liable if one of the banners falls on either a pedestrian or parked or moving vehicle? One other question - Is it true that Kelli Bickman is Councilwoman Claxton's tenant?
Katie Schmidt Feder December 06, 2011 at 08:37 PM
Sorry - yes - art is subjective. my mistake :-/ Okay - happypatcher - I will accept your meaning - and say that you have a good point: installations should not be neglected and upkeep is very important and that certainly should be worked into a project budget or somehow accounted for during an approval process. It is my understanding that Kelly received only $500 from BID for this banner project - so I doubt much of that went into her pocket. This is dissapointing because she received $1,000 the previous year from BID for the youth bureau banner project - so considering track record, community response and success is supposedly criteria for funding- it is disappointing that BID did not even match her previous year's grant for a bigger project. Why does it matter if Kelli is a tenant in a building Drew Claxton or Ted might own? Does this disqualify her from seeking grants money or doing a community project? Anyway - still grateful we live in a diverse community and a country where we can all speak our minds on the PATCH :)
happypatcher December 06, 2011 at 10:27 PM
The City uses and has been using the Arts as a selling point in their PR for years, they should then give the artist the respect and much needed financial help so they can grow. It seems the city only supports the arts when it does not cost them. As far as the BID, as an organization they are clueless and most of the members of their board really don't get it.
Rpapp December 06, 2011 at 10:36 PM
Katie, I agree with you. It seems the only art they like is their own. If someone wants to express themselves, and share it with the city, good for them. I personally wouldn't care what a few self-opinated grumps think.
Lana Yu December 06, 2011 at 11:46 PM
Great article, Margaret. Thank you! I had a blast working with the kids over three very happy days. To see photos of the creative process behind the "Find Your Truth" Mural on the garage see: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lanayu/sets/72157628098391324/
Kelli Bickman December 06, 2011 at 11:51 PM
The city is re-evaluating the way the banners are hung...it will be resolved at some point in the near future. Thank you for your positive outlook, Ted. Very much appreciated.
happypatcher December 07, 2011 at 12:14 AM
Beautiful link Ms Lana, great job.
Kelli Bickman December 07, 2011 at 12:19 AM
Thank you Katie. You rock.
Patty Villanova December 07, 2011 at 12:21 AM
Agreeing with Happy about most things, but he or she is being extremely kind about the BID which is a City agency that is supported by taxes paid by property owners in the Business Improvement District. They recently appointed a farmer to be the executive director, even though there was an applicant with a proven track record of actually doing positive things in the downtown. For some reason the board figured a farmer would be better suited to promoting, marketing and resolving some of the huge issues facing our City's small businesses, in a job where he has absolutely no experience-- unlike the other applicant he has never lived in Peekskill nor operated a business here. So far there is very little evidence that the guy is doing anything other than collecting a paycheck. But that's OK, we still have those murals...
Jill Gertz December 07, 2011 at 12:28 AM
I almost take that WWII mine sculpture personally. I worked for Tallix back in the 80's. It was once of THE best art foundries in the world, and located just off the Riverfront Green. I used to work on art by Willem de Kooning, Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein, Nancy Graves, Erté and others (including actors Anthony Quinn and Fred Gwynne). I worked on a 25ft high sculpture of a WWII soldier carrying a holocaust victim. That's in Liberty Park NJ. We used to restore Renaissance sculptures from Italy. Tallix cast a 24 ft. 15 ton horse based on drawings by da Vinci.. Tallix was a great modern link in a long chain of foundries in Peekskill - who has a Peekskill cast oven in its logo. You would think that with a city with a long history of foundries in Peekskill - and a world class art foundry - would have an exceptional sculpture on one of the most scenic places on the river. Alas but no, we have a clunky homage to a WWII harbor mine blighting a beautiful park like a cold sore in senior pictures. This from a city that advertises itself as a local art mecca. A problem was that Ralph DiBart and others who pushed Peekskill as an art colony back in 90's never maintained criteria for 'artists" despite claims to contrary. Anyone calling themselves an artist rented spaces. Peekskill was swamped with pretenders and its been like that since. Peekskill should have banging works around town by now. Alas we are still are at the day camp level or worse (the mine is worse)
Mary Jane December 07, 2011 at 12:41 AM
Ms. Bickman, you may find that more people would embrace your artistic efforts and possibly financially support those efforts if you opened up your circle to more folks other than those in your exclusive circle. In other words, be gracious enough to thank everyone commenting on the forum, not just your landlord, Ted, and your artistic pal, Katie. Beyond that, art is inherently subjective. I'm interested to see if this administration, which ran on all sorts of promises of fixing the infrastructure, roads and parks, lives up to those promises. Or is the plan to band-aid it all by covering it with murals and band-aids?
Jill Gertz December 07, 2011 at 01:27 AM
Peekskill has never been serious about art. It was a gimmick from the first day. I was there for the start of it and took the first tours with consultant.Ralph DiBart. I had a studio near the Paramount. Ralph and others were supposed to screen art candidates for studios and other initiatives. There were written criteria - almost all of which were discarded early. Anyone calling themselves an artist was in - even of they had no real skills. I went to LARGE openings were some new, self-proclaimed "artists" had literally smeared paint around on various surfaces with their hands and feet. Drop cloths were more artistic. There were a lot of people recovering from various things (illness, divorce, PTSD etc) who got into art as therapy. That was fine except that they took themselves way too seriously just because they could draw a tree. Peekskill didn't get artists as much as it got people looking to acquire an image of themselves as artists. As things progressed, and a lot of "artists" had jumped in the boat, the moment when Peekskill's identity as an art center came to fruition - but so did its rep for bad art. That's pretty much when I bailed out (having studio vandalized was actually the key factor). I told city back in 80's they should use Paramount to become a film center and not a plastic arts center. They could have been the Jacob Burns center. Instead the city attracted things like One Station Plaza and its radicals getting arrested around the county.
Kelli Bickman December 07, 2011 at 01:35 AM
For the record, there are two more banners to be hung, at which point, I hope that enough buzzz will have been generated to have a proper ceremony with all of the bells and whistles the participants deserve. We still have some kinks...this is a work in progress. One goal of "The Banner Project" is to build community through art. This project certainly did that...hundreds of people have participated from all over Westchester County. This is also about stimulating the minds of tomorrow's visionaries by looking to the past for inspiration. The young people of our community were given a voice and mentored by professional artists...They studied accomplished artists work (from HVCCA's "Circa 1986" exhibit), processed through dialogue, learned and applied new techniques. To have their creations hung in a public space to be shared on this scale is an honor. I APPLAUD everyone who contributed to The Banner Project... the artists, the youth, the sponsors, the city and those who have offered kind words of support while we struggled to pull this together...The HVCCA, Livia Straus and Jo-Ann Brody are amazing and they have done a great deal to share a broader vision of the world with the Hudson Valley. As far as funding goes, I have never worked so hard for so little financial return. I now live in the Catskills and plan to devote more time to my personal work. Happy Holidays to you all. Kelli Bickman www.1111studio.net p.s. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Kelli Bickman December 07, 2011 at 01:35 AM
patience, Mary Jane. working on it.
Liz Giegerich December 07, 2011 at 02:24 AM
Thanks for posting this link Lana. Great photos! Please feel free to add any of them to the article.
Mary Jane December 07, 2011 at 02:30 AM
Fair enough, Kelli, and I can appreciate the time, effort and love that indeed went into this work in progress. Not an easy task to plan, coordinate, manage, and bring to fruition the project in this economy. Engaging the children is extraordinary and commendable. We as a community can cultivate tomorrow's scholars, athletes, musicians and yes, artists.
Maureen Winzig December 22, 2011 at 05:11 PM
Well, I'm certainly glad this dialog has returned to... The Banner Project! Kelli Bickman is a truly talented professional artist and a giving soul. Some artists working in solitude only wish they could make the time and exert the effort it takes to direct such a project. At risk kids are very often left to fall through the cracks. Art in the hands of these kids may be one of the few opportunities to express themselves in a positive way and be involved in something they (and we) can be proud of. With the direction of Kelli and the other talented artists involved I feel their work is amazing and does enhance that nasty garage! I also commend the Patch for posting all the positive efforts Peekskill is making no matter how flawed they may be. As an artist in Peekskill, I like that the community can see the events and happenings in town. I applaud the attempts no matter what goes on behind the scenes. I love Peekskill and am personally doing my best to make positive things happen. Perhaps another forum should open just for tearing everything to shreds. There are real problems in every town for sure. For this post I congratulate The Banner Project for all the work and community bolstering it has brought to Peekskill.
Patty Villanova December 22, 2011 at 09:36 PM
Here we go again, if one dares to question where all the millions of taxpayer dollars are going in this city, get ready for to get run out of town on a rail. The tar and feathers are waiting. I have been coming to Peekskill for over 50 years. I invested my life savings and 7 years of my life trying to have a successful business in a city that I love for reasons that I also write about. I am sick and tired of being excoriated and marginalized by the Newbies who come here with all the answers. I want to hear what you have to say 5 years from now if you're still around. By the way, Kool-aid is being distributed at the Gazebo.

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