On Becoming NYC Pilgrims

We’ve got a fantastic Pilgrimage and Faith exhibition up this summer and teen programming is celebrating by presenting all pilgrimage-themed workshops! Students in the Transformative Treks Teen Art Lab create works of art in response to the theme of pilgrimage using digital photography while learning about various aspects of pilgrimage through gallery discussions with educators and guest curators. To get in the spirit of the journey, we also take related trips around NYC to offer us fresh perspectives on how we might find similar ideas in our own city.

For example, one aspect of pilgrimage is that pilgrims don’t just arrive at their destination: they usually interact with the site in a specific way upon arrival. Whether it be leaving ex votos in Christianity, bringing tsatsas to a sacred site in Buddhism, or circumambulating the Ka’bah in Islam; pilgrims perform rituals at sites of significance. NYC is filled with its own sites of significance that inspire pilgrimage.

One cultural pilgrimage that graffiti artists from around the world make is to 5Pointz, an outdoor art exhibit space in Long Island City, considered to be the world’s premiere “graffiti Mecca,” where aerosol artists from around the globe paint colorful pieces on the walls of a 200,000-square-foot factory building. The name 5Pointz signifies the five boroughs coming together as one but, because of its reputation as an epicenter of the graffiti scene, the industrial complex has actually united aerosol artists from across the world. Today, Teen Art Lab participants were fortunate to meet with veteran graffiti artist and gallery curator Meres who took us on a tour of 5 Pointz, explaining different types of graffiti and the significance of the site as well as pointing out works by famous artists around the world.

On any given day, 5Pointz visitors can expect to find prominent artists, musicians, deejays, and b-boys on site, in addition to filmmakers, photographers, and entire tour buses full of admirers soaking in the more than 350 Technicolor murals. Of course graffiti artists who make pilgrimages to 5 Pointz don’t just visit, they add their graffiti or street art to its hallowed walls. In the spirit of what pilgrims do when they arrive at destinations, we put up our own graffiti work on the wall with the help of Meres, who gave an amazing tutorial on graffiti writing basics.

Check out these pictures of us in action! 

We decided on the word “journey” for our piece as a memory of our travels across NYC this summer reflecting on pilgrimage.  Here’s the finished product! 

What’s your pilgrimage site and how do you interact with it?

About Pauline

As Manager of Youth Development at the Rubin Museum of Art, I design, facilitate and teach youth development programs for teens and college students that take place during out-of-school time. At the Rubin Museum, I can combine my huge love for Asian Art and culture with my other favorite thing: working with students!
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