Would you invest $10 for a public mural?

On vacation this week, blogging from our Sag Harbor, N.Y. bureau…

Would you give $10 to get a funky mural painted on the putrid-looking KC Jazz property?

Kelly's Pub wallIf 99 other people agree with you, we’ve got $1,000 to start. That’s what’s called crowdfunding.

Entering downtown via Irving Street, most folks are unfortunately greeted by the decrepit former Kelly’s Pub/KC Jazz building at Seminary Avenue — only blocks from the Union County Performing Arts Center, the crown jewel of the Rahway Arts District (RAD).

2f1b3-muralpseagbuildingThe former Kelly’s Pub location, now the failed home of KC Jazz, is a critical gateway for downtown.  Wiser heads than mine have considered the space a perfect spot to expand the RAD’s mural program that brought a colorful facade to the former PSE&G building on Irving Street last year.

Rachael Faillace, executive director of the Rahway Arts District, said there’s been talk about the KC Jazz property as a potential location for public art, ideal for a welcoming mural or artwork. The problem for the RAD’s Mural Lab is its size.

“We designed the Mural Lab as a community program to involve teen residents with beautifying their town,” Faillace said. For the initial mural on the PSE&G building on Irving Street, “we were able to work on plywood panels in a Rec Center classroom and have Public Works install the finished mural directly to the existing plywood,” she said, which would not be an option for the KC Jazz building facade, given it size. “More likely, we would need to paint on site from ladders or scaffolding.” She said it’s not off the table though, as they’re talking to some local professional artists about the site.

Of course, the decrepit building that finally had plywood replace vacant/fc32b-kelly2527spubkcjazzsmashed out windows is two stories — a bigger project no doubt. So the size is one challenge — but it’s also an advantage — it’s got to be an inviting canvass with impressive exposure for any enterprising artist. Another challenge – as always – is cost: who will pay for the cost of painting, supplies, insurance, etc.?

So what am I getting at? Some of the most popular and successful crowdfunding projects on Kickstarter or Indiegogo are related to civic projects, and there are some crowdfunding sites that focus strictly on civic projects, like CitizenInvestor. (Interesting paper on this topic analyzing the sector so far: “Fundraising for public or shared goods has often been led by the private sector and is common across cultures.”).

Ellenville muralIf we can get a few other folks to double that $1,000 start I talked about earlier — the city, the county (HEART grant anyone?), and the Redevelopment Agency — that’s $7,000 to do something with and now maybe we’re getting somewhere. (Or not, I’m not entirely sure how much a mural goes for these days). This summer I passed through Ellenville, N.Y. and this mural caught my eye as something that would work — could you not see something like this, perhaps depicting some Rahway history, on the side of that currently crappy-looking wall?  The Redevelopment Agency last year authorized $3,000 — as a partial payment — for a temporary piece inside Hamilton Stage.

The average civic crowdfunding project is $6,357 — a total considered small in scale — and more than 4 out of 5 projects labeled as “civic” succeed.

Whatever becomes of the KC Jazz site — restaurant, parking lot, ZipCar (c’mon, how about it!?) — in the meantime, there must be a better option. It’s been three years since the Redevelopment Agency agreed to lift the restriction on the property, allowing the current owners to sell the parcel without requiring a jazz club there.

It’s long overdue for something to be done with the site. At the very least, the city or Redevelopment Agency could get someone to taken down the “Coming Soon: KC Jazz” sign — the one right next to the “For Sale.”

11 thoughts on “Would you invest $10 for a public mural?”

  1. I’d be glad to contribute to this and other projects if they seemed to be a good investment in our community.

  2. Is there any update if this project is being organized?

    Your blog is great to know what is happening in the town. I want to get more involved in projects and start up ideas like this one mention in your post but really don’t know how. If feel there is not a good place for this type of information/ community service project. If you know where I should look, please pass on the information. From previous experience community involvement is the best small roots efforts that really makes a difference. I have thought of leading something myself, but one reason I have not stepped up is because I am worried about navigating the town politics, regulations etc. Thank you in advance for any response.

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