Coney Island celebrates its art and history with the People’s Playground Mural Project

October 3, 2020 Jaime DeJesus
Coney Island celebrates its art and history with the People’s Playground Mural Project
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Even though COVID-19 forced Coney Island’s amusement parks to stay closed this year, several artists have come together to create murals celebrating the rich history of the area and its beloved events and rides.

Organized by the Alliance for Coney Island, the People’s Playground Mural Project debuted on Wednesday, Sept. 29 at several storefront gates.

For artist Danielle Mastrion, who has been painting murals in Coney Island for several years, joining the project was a no-brainer.

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Photo by Norman Blake

“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” she said. “If you go there in the wintertime or off-season, a lot of the stores are shuttered. It doesn’t give you this happy vibe you get from Coney Island when you are there in the summertime, and I think it’s a great initiative they are doing to make it lively, colorful and happy year-round, even when the businesses are closed.”

The project’s goal was to create a welcoming environment and make a positive impact on the community by bringing public art to the streets. According to the alliance, the murals are largely focused on the Surf Avenue corridor in the amusement district, painted on gates of seasonal businesses that typically close in the fall and don’t reopen until the spring.

““We are honored to have worked with these talented artists and our merchants to bring art to the streets of Coney Island,” said Alexandra Silversmith, the alliance’s executive director. “This initiative is just the start and we are ecstatic to already see the engagement and interest from residents and passersby. Anything that brings joy and excitement to our Coney Island community during this difficult time is a much-needed distraction.”

Photo by Norman Blake

Some of the businesses displaying the art are Coney Island Beach Shop, Coney Island USA’s Shooting Gallery, Fly Wheel Eats at Luna Park, Pete’s Clam Stop, and the wall of Sneakertown USA on West 15th Street between Surf and Mermaid Aves.

Mastrion’s mural at the Shooting Gallery pays tribute to the legendary Mermaid Parade and to amusements of yesteryear, including Steeplechase Park, the original Thunderbolt and the Zipper.

Megan Watters, a scenic artist whose work can be seen at Pete’s, said she has great respect for the neighborhood’s scenery, particularly its hand-painted signs.

“Whenever I am in a funk or in need of inspiration, I play hooky from real life and walk around Coney, looking at the craftsmanship, soaking in the spirit and people-watching,” she said.

Photo by Julia Cocuzza’s mural Julia Cocuzza’s mural

Julia Cocuzza’s mural on Mermaid Avenue and West 15th Street depicts the earth, sliced up and loosely reassembled, with two human figures and the Wonder Wheel and Cyclone extending out from the center like waves breaking.

“Over the week I spent painting this mural, I received so much appreciation and encouragement from folks passing by – further proof of this neighborhood’s uniquely warm and welcoming personality,” she said. “I’ve always had tons of affection for Coney Island and its culture, history and overall energy, but this project has without a doubt deepened my personal connection.”

Photo courtesy of Alliance for Coney Island

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