Graffiti has become a new obsession for us over the pandemic. Since we have spent so much time out in the woods hiking around Long Island – one of our favorite finds has been the colorful art of graffiti. I was so excited to learn about Brooklyn Unplugged’s Graffiti Street Art Workshop in Bushwick. Not only did we get to tour this amazing area – we got to make our own graffiti art in a private workshop with a graffiti artist. But since we had permission to make it – I should call it “street art”. Now that I know the lingo…
While we learned about the Bushwick Collective and Brooklyn Unplugged Tours in the winter – we waited for nice weather (and my birthday!) to venture into Brooklyn since the entire experience is outside. The whole area is amazing and filled with graffiti and street art. Started just a decade ago by Joe Ficalora (to help overcome personal tragedy) – the Bushwick Collective is a living testament to how art can transform a neighborhood. It quickly became a launch pad for artists and a transformative vehicle for the area.
It was like our eyes were in a candy store as we drove up to the muster point at Bushwick Market for our walking tour (street parking is available). Every building and every surface was covered in brightly colored art – including some cars! We met our guide and walked around the area learning about the history of graffiti (made popular by the subway cars chugging through the boroughs), types of graffiti (stickers count!), styles, and famous artists. My favorite fact was learning the difference between graffiti and street art – quite simply – permission.
The vibe of the area was amazing and we immediately swore this would be the first of many trips there. Another fact we learned – the art changes regularly! What we saw was different from what friends saw only weeks before, including some murals drying as we walked past!
After our eyes studied all the different techniques and colors it was time for us to become the artists. Since we are not hoodlum vandals, this was the first time any of us held a can of spray paint in our hands. But again – we had permission – so it was ok! It is funny how one thinks graffiti is dangerous and illegal – but in fact – elevated to street art it is as much of an addition to beautify an area as a park, statue, or fountain.
Time to Make Our Art! The Graffiti Street Art Workshop Begins
We met our artist partner – Caty Wooley – back at Bushwick Market and discussed our vision. Given our last name is so long that wasn’t going to happen… there wasn’t a word that jumped out to us… so we thought of a “W” with a city skyline. For the background we thought a rainbow would be nice because it’s been a rainbow kind of year. This piece could become our time capsule.
We began gearing up with protective gloves and glasses for the kids. Then we picked a color scheme. Next, we learned all different techniques with the spray cans and how holding it at different distances produces different effects. We never realized how hard it was and how much was involved to make even a simple line! It also gave us new appreciation for the murals we had just seen.
We practiced making different direction lines and letters. Like a sloppy copy or rough draft. It was a big mish mash. I was worried this would be seen in the final product – but luckily it was not.
Happily, we started covering the crazy with our rainbow color blocks, learning how to blend them together, and seeing our vision emerge. It was interesting to see how quickly each layer dried and how easy it was to touch up if needed.
The moment had come, it was time for the big “W” and skyline. Like a pro and with one flick of the wrist our artist in residence picked up a black can of spray paint and nailed it. She then suggested where and how to color everything in and to make “windows” (my favorite part).
Finally, once the amateurs finished, Caty took back in the reigns and cleaned it all up. She outlined and highlighted and made it look amazing. I didn’t want to stop making windows…
One of a Kind Collaborative Family Art
This hour-long workshop was so much fun. Not only did we create an original work of art with a street artist, but we did it together. All of us – from ages 4 to 43. I loved that we each had a role in creating it and somehow it all came together in the end. It was definitely not your average family activity – which is why it was so much more enjoyable and unique, and the perfect way to celebrate my birthday.
Since it was layers and layers of paint the canvas was very wet. We left our W with them and opted to have it shipped to us for an additional charge. When it arrived a week later my kids were so excited. We took Caty’s advice and hung it from simple thumbtacks on the wall to show off the rough edges. It’s a great reminder of a beautiful day where we made something together.
How Can You Do It?
The Graffiti Street Art Workshop is available 7 days a week in Bushwick. They can also bring the workshop to you or to events like a birthday party or large-scale celebration. This would be an amazing addition to your summer plans – especially if you want to make a wicked cool backyard cocoon event or looking for a fun activity to do before an old school 80s or 90s movie night! For more info click on Brooklyn Unplugged Tours or their Instagram page.