Graffiti artists face homelessness: The battle for 5Pointz is lost
LEONARDO CLAUDIO Special to the AmNews | 2/8/2012, 7:07 p.m.
Hip-hop heads make a pilgrimage to 5Pointz to complete the fifth element of hip-hop, similar to the way Muslims make a pilgrimage to the Hajj to complete the fifth pillar of Islam.
5Pointz: The Institute for Higher Burning is a place many graffiti writers call home. It has been around since 2002, but its building has been used as a safe haven for graffiti writers since 1993, when it was founded under the name the Phun Phactory. The building was taken over by Meres, the current art director and an artist who has been writing graffiti for over 20 years.
The building is owned by the Wolkoff family but is used as a giant canvas for artists. It is covered from the rooftop all the way down to the sidewalk in awe-inspiring aerosol art.
Many graffiti artists call this building home. 5Pointz is a location for all artists, no matter the level of their skills-all can come out and express themselves. For years, 5Pointz has housed events promoting the appreciation not only of the art that it is engulfed in but the culture that it represents.
5Pointz represents hip-hop culture as a whole by hosting an array of events such as breakdancing battles and beatboxing competitions. It is not just the backdrop to many music videos of iconic hip-hop artists and groups like Grandmaster Caz, Mobb Deep and Boot Camp Clik. Meres said, "Every element of hip-hop is present here at any given time; [it's] no longer a building but a community."
5Pointz is a name that seems so distant from what the building represents. When asked about the name's meaning, Meres explained, "It symbolizes five boroughs coming to one epicenter, one point to coincide and create." He added, "I wanted a name that didn't have to do with graffiti, in case [I] decided to venture out to other areas."
The aerosol museum is approaching its 10th anniversary. As it nears this milestone, Meres hopes it will make it, as there have been rumors that the Wolkoffs are planning on bulldozing 5Pointz to build high-rise buildings. It's "a matter of time until he starts that process," Meres said.
Surprisingly, he is not bitter, but rather sounds grateful when talking about the situation. Meres clarified that the building's owner is responsible for allowing everything to happen at 5Pointz, so he doesn't want to "mud-sling."
But artist TooFly said, "If 5Pointz was to be torn down, we would see it as one more example of the corporate takeover of our community." She feels that "5Pointz is important to New York City art history" and relates the tearing down of the building to deforestation. "They are messing with the environment that gives them life," she said.
This graffiti mecca brings thousands of tourists and painters to the city every year as they come just to view the building. A person painting at 5Pointz shared that he actually saves up nearly $5,000 every winter to spend on spray paint in order to paint legal masterpieces there in the summer. And that is just one writer-one can only imagine the amount of money being brought into the city because of 5Pointz.