GRAFFITI GRAVEYARD: Allens Avenue, Providence, RI
This is a collection of pictures I shot to document the take down of the Shepard Warehouse Building. It's a place along the Providence waterfront where graffiti art was buried leaving only painted broken bricks that I call "bones." It's the Graffiti Graveyard.
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Railroad Graffiti Art - Be it train yards, abandoned tracks, or underneath trellises train benching is one of my favorite things to do (if you're new to graffiti art the Urban dictionary defines train benching quite simply as the time spent photographing or watching graffiti on trains. Makes sense!)
"Piece" is short for masterpiece and is usually an illustration or large and intricate signature. The creators of pieces typically consider themselves serious artists and often (but not always) plan their work long before applying it to a wall, railroad car or.....
Graffiti signatures are large and colorful and contain a name, phrase or word.
It was exceptionally hot Sunday in May, 2015, when I got a text that Bartlett Yard, in Roxbuy, MA, was coming down. If I wanted to get in for pictures, I was told, there were ways though the heavily fenced perimeter. The next day was demolition day.
I called my artist friend, REAK, and off we went to Boston. Lunches packed, camera batteries charged, we found a discrete opening in the fence and in we went. Okay. I squeezed in with Reak kind of pushing me through the links before he climbed and jumped onto the other side to catch my arm to help.
This was my second visit to Bartlett. The first was in November, 2014, towards the evening. I got a few great shots but soon it was too dark. I dreamed the winter away wondering what was going on in Roxbury. I wasoverwhelmed by the graffiti artexploding out of grimey garages and bus washing stalls. I wanted one more visit to record this amazing place.
I’m grateful we had 4 good hours to explore and picnic. We watched some teens, who also slipped in, record a rap video. It was a perfect hot and steamingday in an abandoned bus terminal. Even when we saw the 10 or more police climbing the fences and running across the yard towards us I thought, “Oh perfect. Now smile and look innocent.”
There were at least 4 undercover, 3 beat police and 2 homeland security agents. Maybe an FBI agent or two. They were all sort of nice to me but gave REAK a pretty close look. One used his “tough guy” voice and repeated questions hoping to catch a lie. But there was nothing to hide. REAK was a calm and respectful. The tough guy backed off and started to give us a saftey lecture. We got an escort back to the car by the beat police. The kids already disappeared. Smart.
Goodbye, Barlett Yard, in Roxbury, MA. It was sweet and way too soon. Bartlett Yard was Boston’s5 Pointz . At least this was true for a very short time. 5 Pointz opened as a legal wall to in 1993 and was known internationally as the Phun Phactory.
As 5 Pointz was being demolished in 2014, Bartlett Yard just opened as a short term legal wall. Bartlett was less a wall and more a series ofmany garages of different sizes that were totally painted, tagged and respected. Bartlett became a creative village for the community. There were art swaps, potlucks, block parties, summer art programs for kids and finally the wrap up party more then a year later.
Everyone knew Bartlett Yard legal graffiti site was a temporary happening. 5 Pointz, however, was white washed over night without warning, resulting in artists bringing on lawsuits and the community protesting. What happened at 5 Pointz, after over 20 years of history, was a jarring shock. Bartlett, happily, was handled with dignity. There was time for a sweet farewell.
On the site where Bartlett Yard stood will be housing, stores, a charter school, and of course a legal wall with respect to some of the best graffiti, murals, tagging and street art I’ve ever seen in one place.