Gorgeous Greenpoint mural brings life to otherwise dour corner

April 19, 2018 By Alex Wieckowski Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The mural by Ola Kalnins covers the entire building.
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Peter Kirchhausen had a building and a dream.

And the owner of 903 Manhattan Avenue spent tens of thousands of dollars to realize it: cover an entire side of the four-story building with a glorious, colorful mural by Swedish artist Ola Kalnins.

“Mentally, artistically, spiritually, art awakens things in people,” Kirchhausen said. “It has the power to brighten up our days.” 

Kirchhausen, whose family has been in the Greenpoint real estate business since the 1980s, was raised in Park Slope and then moved to upstate New York. After touring with Insane Clown Posse–an American hip hop duo–he started managing the Greenpoint property and moved to the neighborhood full time in 2013.

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The mural project was a matter of happenstance. One day as he drove to work from Queens, Kirchhausen saw an artist painting a mural. That artist was Kalnins.

“I literally pulled over and got out of my car knowing I’d be late to an appointment and stopped him,” said Kirchhausen. They met to flesh out the idea. Kalnins’s ambition was even grander than Kirchhausen’s.

“Early on, it was obvious that he was setting his eyes on something bigger than I was thinking,” he told Untapped Cities, an architecture website.

Eventually, Kirchhausen gave Kalnins full authority over the project because he believed that Kalnins was “an artistic genius and you should never control genius.”

Kalnins called the resulting work one of the hardest projects for him physically because of the size of the building, the use of a skylift, and the eight days it took to complete the mural.

Kirchhausen notes that the Swedish artist is a “magic man” and got several parties, including the Swedish consulate, to contribute to funding the project. The building owner did not disclose the cost but hinted the range was $20,000-$25,000.

Kirchhausen and Kalnins’s efforts have been fruitful. Hundreds of residents walk the busy intersection of Manhattan and Greenpoint Avenues every day, and many of them stop to admire or even photograph the mural.

“It has been fully embraced by the community,” said Kirchhausen, and although he doesn’t know whether or not it has helped his commercial tenants, he can only imagine that it has not hurt.

Being a huge fan of art–whether it be music, writing, or painting–Kirchhausen appreciates the beauty and power that is expressed by creative individuals. The visual beauty of the mural is something “I think we all could benefit from, especially with the world being pretty dark these days” said Kirchhausen.

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