How can art inspire community? Avenues New York was honored to welcome international street artist Tom Bob to campus to explore this question and create a piece of public art that reflects the spirit of our community. Tom is known for his uncanny ability to transform the most mundane urban objects–like manhole covers, fire hydrants, and bike racks–into works of art that entertain, delight and inspire.
During his visit, Tom told students from our Early Learning Center and Lower Division how he came to be a street artist and what inspires him in his creative practice. “The big thing I want to do is create the emotion of happiness,” he said. “Even if it’s just somebody looking at it for a few seconds, they get a quick chuckle, get a little good energy in their life and then move on, that’s really gratifying to me.”
Born and raised in Massachusetts, Tom Bob has lived in New York City for more than three decades. Recently, he’s been admiring the building that houses Avenues New York, a former warehouse designed by renowned architect Cass Gilbert in the 1920s. “About three years ago I walked by,” he said, “and I just really loved this building, and those bollards were speaking to me, I wanted to do something with them.”
In his imagination, Tom transformed those two ordinary sidewalk bollards into weights being lifted by a determined child. With the students of the ELC and Lower Division watching and cheering him on, Tom went to work. What resulted is “Weightlifter Kid,” an extraordinary piece of street art that is at once playful and inspiring, and whose meaning is especially resonant in the school context: “It’s the struggle to improve oneself, while carrying the weight of the world,” Tom said.
Tom’s mural continues to delight our students, faculty and staff. You can find it right outside Avenues New York on the corner of 25th Street and 10th Avenue. Be sure to check it out the next time you’re in the Chelsea neighborhood.