Jersey City Arts


Jersey City painted over its popular Monopoly mural, founded at the Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza, one that they themselves commissioned. The mural, painted by Gary Wynans, known by his artist name as Mr. AbiLLity, was chosen and approved by the Jersey City Mural Program. The mural, since its inception about two months ago, has dealt with opposition from government officials as a result of some controversial tiles on the “gameboard” in the eyes of some viewers. Wynans stated in an interview with New York radio station WNYC that, “I feel like people are so sensitive. Its a game. Its fun. It’s not like a history board of the facts that have gone on. It’s just a fun board game.”

Credit: @mr_abillity (Instagram)

The mural featured many famous locations in Jersey City and also spoke about growing problems that many face in the city. An example of this was a tile on the mural that stated “gentrification tax,” a growing challenge that many lower income residents face. The tile was later replaced with one that said “hipster tax.” Another image on the mural, that of a person behind bars, angered a few people, with some labeling the image as racist. Eventually, the city forced Wynan to edit the image. However, the image is a part of Wynan’s story. Wynan states that he was arrested for graffiti in 2013. He follows up saying, on his Instagram account, “It’s the follow up to the ‘you got caught’ square. That’s the second page to my own personal story that is interwoven throughout the game board. I’m an artist, so telling my story is what I do; what we all do as artists.”

Credit: @mr_abillity (Instagram)

Author’s Take – Seeing how this all went down is a bit upsetting. Reports say that the artist, Gary Wynans (abiLLity), was working on the project for over two weeks. He had a vision for the mural and was able to translate that vision to reality. The mural affected some people positively and unfortunately, some negatively. Some people complained about it and it resulted in changes that were made to the piece. This is where the problem lies.

Art is all about human creativity. The literal definition of art, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is as follows: something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings. Art is to be interpreted in different ways. Art, regardless of the form, is supposed to induce emotions. If the artist’s ideas are censored or made to be changed in any way, then in a way it is no longer “his” art. The mural represented important aspects that are affecting residents in Jersey City. It reflects what’s important to him.

While reports say the mural was temporary, the art program could have, at the very least, communicated to the artist what they were about to do. Instead, they simply painted over it, adding more fuel to the fire, as the expression goes.  After all the controversy, they could have definitely handled the situation in a different manner.

Credit: @mr_abillity (Instagram)


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