‘Remote,’ Ep. 6: An Eye for Public Art
“Some of the best public art is hidden,” says Badir McCleary, gesturing toward the impenetrable layer of tags, stencils, stickers, and thickly outlined bubble letters covering the dilapidated concrete pillars of Philadelphia's iconic Graffiti Pier. “There’s something creative about these spaces,” the Los Angeles filmmaker continues, shooting on location for the latest episode of Remote, his ongoing video series on the power of public art. “They’re hidden, quiet, allowing you to become one with yourself as an artist.”
The sixth mini-documentary in the series, “Embracing and Preserving Community Contribution Through Public Art,” opens with a segment on Graffiti Pier, a former coal-loading dock turned street-art hotspot in the early ’90s. “I've seen that area for years remain desolate, dangerous, and discarded by the city,” says Badir, a Philly native, who returns home to shoot Graffiti Pier before the “abandoned” infrastructure becomes a hip waterfront. Financed by the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, the revitalization project is scheduled to unfold over the next three or four years.
Watch Remote, Ep. 6: Embracing and Preserving Community Contribution Through Public Art
“Like many neighborhoods that feature artists, that discarded space [Graffiti Pier] was embraced by the city’s taggers, muralists, and art-loving citizens as a place to ‘get up’ and get away from the everyday hassle of trying to paint in the city, albeit sometimes illegally,” Badir continues. “The revitalization idea isn't for the artists at all; it's for the developers who've spent millions of dollars trying to turn that area into a new waterfront housing complex […] they will mention safety, but in the countless decades that the space has been around, I don't know that I've encountered a safe place in the city to practice the craft besides someone's own home. Gentrification stops all of that.”
While in Philadelphia for filming, Badir stops by “We the Youth,” the only collaborative Keith Haring mural that remains intact in its original location. He also visits Tony Tasset’s gigantic blue eye sculpture in Dallas: “Whenever I visit a new city or town, my eyes are wide open for the art,” says Badir, who covers Dallas’ public art scene more extensively in episode four of Remote. The series’ first episode sees the filmmaker toting his camera to Coachella Valley in search of site-specific desert installations hiding in plain sight of his current home base, L.A.
Though many of his projects support or resurrect visual culture in L.A. neighborhoods, Badir is a self-described “heavy traveler” who helps artists transform public spaces worldwide. In 2011, he founded Art Above Reality, an art consulting and curatorial firm that works with beginners and seasoned pros alike. Since then, the longtime filmmaker has built a reputation for breathing life into forgotten pockets of creative culture. His video series Fallen Through the Cracks highlights overlooked Black artists in short, digestible snippets, while his work with Gallery 38 helped reinvigorate the eclectic arts community in the historic L.A. neighborhood of West Adams. Similarly, the Remote series explores the impact of public art on surrounding cities, landscapes, and communities.
Faces, Places, and Poetry in Brooklyn
Episode six concludes in Brooklyn, where Badir visits two exhibitions that capture the borough’s vibrant community. After touring Faces and Places, photographer Jamel Shabazz’s 40-year retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum, Badir heads to the Brooklyn Public Library for The Book Of HOV, a tribute to Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and his extraordinary career. “Being that Jay-Z is also from that area adds so much more to the excitement of seeing [his lyrics] so publicly,” says Badir, who’s a fan. “Knowing that he walked those streets, thought of those lyrics in the neighborhood, and even engaged or had friendships with many of the folks who will visit the library is very cool.”
While varied in size and scope, the spaces Badir visits for episode six of Remote share one thing in common: “Each space has something to give to its community,” he says. “Providing space, activity, and inspiration are building blocks to an evolving supportive community.”
Available to view here only, Remote is an exclusive video series created by Badir McCleary in partnership with NOT REAL ART. Watch the premiere of “Embracing and Preserving Community Contribution Through Public Art” on the player above or scroll through the image gallery below.
“Providing space, activity, and inspiration are building blocks to an evolving supportive community.” — Badir McCleary
All photos published with permission of the artist(s); featured photo: “Eye” by Tony Tasset.
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