The Inauguration of “Brooklyn Finery”—a Mural Evolves on Grand Street

grand street williamsburg public art merriam

The inauguration and “unveiling” of Brooklyn Finery — an evolving mural on Grand Street (at Berry) will be celebrated with a reception on Tuesday, Sept. 10 from 5:30-7:30 pm.

The artists have been hard at work for several months, in all kinds of weather. All the while, neighborhood residents and visitors have had the benefit of watching the wall progress day after day into a wonderful public work of art, rich with social and cultural references.

Meet the artists, and fellow residents at 123 Grand Street, and enjoy some snacks and drinks.

The event marks “just the beginning of the public art installation Brooklyn Finery,” because, say Phyllis and Victor Merriam—who are the curators, as well as contributing artists—”… there is no end in sight.”

They intend the mural to become a vital part of the community by recording the pentementi (“an alteration in a painting, evidenced by traces of previous work”) of the neighborhood as it continues to change. The piece itself will “never be finished,” as they will invite additional contributions from new artists and, as is inevitable, the wall itself changes with time.

Sponsors for the mural are Eddie and Karen Weinberg of A-Z Kosher Meat whose family business has been in Williamsburg since 1969, and who have been witness to the changes the mural documents. The artists, Pansum Cheng and Zhenwei Xie were chosen for this first phase because of their very different approaches to figuration and the use of color. Phyllis and Victor felt that Pansum’s and Zhenwei’s styles combined with their own documentary approach to this project would produce a vitality and energy that is reflective of the neighborhood.

grand street williamsburg public art merriam

Read some reflections about the mural, from the artist:

The fishermen stand in as shadows of what’s in my head, ambitious New Yorkers; constantly fishing for new excitements and opportunities, and at times, blindly. We all attempt to capture whatever finds their way to the hooks we cast. So busy being busy, we rarely takes time to reflect what we are busy with, or for what reason.
Pansum Cheng

“We want this mural to reflect the nature of the community in which it resides. We chose the background of the Domino factory for several reasons. Its physical presence dominates the skyline, it is emblematic of Brooklyn’s industrial past, its future will fundamentally change the community. We used other architectural elements to further highlight the physical changes to the neighborhood and the community’s response to these changes. As our viewers walk through the neighborhood they will recognize pieces of the mural. We spent months taking photos to use for this project. We also want the mural to reflect the physicality of the wall on which it is installed by letting the texture, cracks, bare places and past graffiti become integral parts of the composition.”
-Phyllis and Victor Merriam

“My inspiration for this mural comes from being raised in Brooklyn. The backyard cookouts are an essential part of Brooklyn life. It’s a mini vacation for many of the blue-collar families whom inhabit the borough. I wanted to recreate the sense of community as well as nostalgia within this project. As this project progressed, I saw that there was an overwhelming amount of support from the Williamsburg community. Even though Williamsburg is quickly gentrifying into a playground for the young and wealthy, we must not forget that there are still individuals who are less fortunate with whom the neighborhood is shared. My hopes are for this piece to be a catalyst for people in the neighborhood to share and enjoy just like the BBQ’s that I grew up with.“
– Zhenwei Xie