One of the winning murals.

About a year ago, Lauren Elvers Collins, Executive Director of the Church Avenue Business Improvement District, called me up to chat about ways to spruce up her district for a grant proposal. She mentioned how the look and feel of the district changed so abruptly the minute businesses rolled down their solid gates – not an uncommon challenge in many urban commercial districts. The discussion reminded me of a great program that I was familiar with from my work at LISC. The Excelcior Action Group (one of my all time favorite organizations!) has a wonderful Mural Program that works to beautify the district’s numerous solid roll down gates while also reducing the incidence of graffiti. Lauren took the idea and ran with it, turning this simple concept into an exciting program that included significant community input, and a competition that spurred media input.

UCA Exhibition at the Brooklyn Public Library

Church Avenue BID’s Uncover Church Avenue initiative is a great example of how BIDs are carrying out this type of program with maximum community input at every step of the process. Thanks to this initiative, Church Avenue in Brooklyn, NY will have five new colorful and vibrant additions to the neighborhood this spring.

Uncover Church Avenue is a public art competition that was designed to bring attention to the district. What it also does is beautify the street (particularly in the evening) with artwork by local artists, while also abating graffiti in the district. The contest engages artists, residents, children, and merchants to take an active role in deciding the look of their neighborhood. The five winning designs – selected from over 50 submissions from Brooklyn-based artists and students, will be installed on commercial gates along the Avenue. The goal is to encourage vibrant commercial activity along a stretch with the most abundant vacancies, and to highlight and promote the unique character of the neighborhood. Merchants see the potential in promoting their business, local artists have a new venue to display their work, and curious residents have a new reason to walk down the street.

Visit the program’s blog to see the winning designs, learn step-by-step how the project developed, and to stay current on the murals’ progress.

And if you’re in the neighborhood – visit the Flatbush Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library through Feb. 24 to see images of mural sites and all submitted mural proposals.