Repainting Murray Hill one blank wall at a time

Repainting Murray Hill one blank wall at a time
New York artist Jerkface uses a hydraulic lift to get the height he needs to paint a 1,000-square-foot mural featuring comic strip characters Calvin and Hobbes on the side of the Bank of America office in Murray Hill.

If Jason Tetlak has his way, Murray Hill will become known as a fun, creative place to live and work. A graphic designer, former elementary school art teacher, and member of the Murray Hill Preservation Association board, Tetlak has big plans for the historic community.

As coordinator for the MHPA-sponsored mural project, Tetlak began procuring blank walls and willing artists in 2016 to beautify the century-old neighborhood. He was also involved with the Murray Hill centennial celebration block party in September 2016, which gave him another big idea, although he’s not ready to go public with it yet.

“I think it will put Murray Hill on the local map as an annual event destination, similar to Christmas in Avondale,” he said, while declining to give details.

In the meantime, the fifth of six murals was completed in mid-February with a different twist. Tetlak broadened his search for talent and reached out to several New York artists. “Bringing a New York artist down to Murray Hill helps spotlight what’s going on here,” he said.

Tetlak found an artist known as Jerkface, who said he enjoys painting in new locations and had never been to Jacksonville.

Jerkface, 34, was born and raised in New York, and although he attended art school he didn’t graduate. “I didn’t let that stop me,” he said, referring to his art, which focuses on blending unrelated cartoon characters such as Popeye and Donald Duck, or Care Bears with Wu Tang Clan, and putting his own spin on them.

“We try not to give the artists parameters,” said Tetlak, adding that so far there have been no objections to the other four murals, which are located on Tradewinds Bar (Post and Edgewood), Boot Rack Saloon on Lenox, Grater Goods in the Murray Hill Plaza (across from BBVA Compass) and on the side of a barber shop which abuts the Murray Hill Theatre on Edgewood Avenue. “The more freedom you give, the more established artists you’ll get,” he said.

The week-long mural project began Feb. 13 when Tetlak and the artist primed the 66-foot-wide by 15-foot-high wall on the southern side of the Bank of America branch office on Edgewood Avenue with white paint. Jerkface estimated he would use between 20 and 30 cans of bright spray paint to create the Calvin and Hobbes mural.

Unlike the other mural artists, who received a stipend for their work, Jerkface donated his time, but travel, lodging and materials were covered by the preservation society, said Tetlak.

The last of current crop of murals will be painted by local artist Nicole Holderbaum at the Florida Christian Center, 1115 Edgewood Ave. S.

Tetlak would like to continue the mural project and is seeking funding and building owners willing to participate. “I counted more than 50 buildings in Murray Hill with blank walls that could support some type of public art,” he said.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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