In just a few days, residents and commuters using the LIRR underpass on Continental Avenue witnessed street artists transform the walls into a homage to the Ramones, Station Square, and Forest Hills Stadium and the professional tennis greats who played there.
Both projects were made possible through the vision of Noah Sheroff, founder and director of 501 See Streets, a non-profit that collaborates with communities and artists to create works of public art.
The mural on the east wall featuring the tennis greats was designed by 39-year-old street artist Andre Trenier of the Bronx and finished just in time for the Mumford & Sons show at Forest Hills Stadium on June 16.
“One of the most memorable remarks came from a woman who had seen Althea Gibson play,” said Sheroff. “Her story left an impression on me, since it really connected our work to Forest Hills.”
Gibson, Billie Jean King, Arthur Ashe and John McEnroe are celebrated in the mural, which includes a stylized Forest Hills Stadium plaque pointing in the stadium's direction.
“I did the sketch the previous weekend and painted the mural from a Tuesday to Thursday afternoon,” Trenier said. “The only real challenge I faced was the rough texture on the wall, which can be difficult to capture small details.”
Trenier was an art major at the prestigious LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and the Performing Arts, followed studying illustration at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts.
He painted his first mural as a memorial to a friend who was killed nearly 16 years ago, while his more recent work can be seen in the Bronx, Bushwick, and Harlem.
One of his largest murals for 501 See Streets is of Heavy D and the Boyz in Mount Vernon.
“I got more and more into painting murals because I enjoy working outside and interacting with people while I create,” Trenier said. “Street art's power rests in its ability to reach people and affect their mood and inspire them in their daily lives.”
“Every detail, every emotion comes through, and what better place than the entrance to Station Square,” said Cynthia Maria. “After work I find myself taking the long way home just to stop for a moment and take another look, and every time I do I feel or see something more than the day before.”
Other Forest Hills residents already love the new artwork.
“The artwork is bold and simple, making its statement from a distance and even at the pace of traffic going by,” said Gloria Piraino. “Forest Hills has many famous names associated with it, and this pairing makes great use of the space.”
“I’ve observed many occasions of parents explaining to children who the images represent, and older residents expounding on the rich history of the U.S. Open,” said John O'Reilly. “Both murals make me feel very proud to live in Forest Hills.”
Sheroff is hopeful for future opportunities to create more street art in Forest Hills.
“One woman stopped and asked about painting the walls of the Yellowstone Boulevard underpass,” he said. “Excuse the hyperbole, but I would love it if we could paint every wall in the community.”
Trenier reflected on his first mural in Forest Hills.
“People were so positive and supportive, and I hope it continues to brighten people's days and inspires them to share stories about the neighborhood's rich history,” he said.