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Sidewalk Art
Photo: Hemera
There has been an explosion of art in urban neighborhoods in recent years. This includes large murals painted on the sides of buildings and outdoor sculptures in parks and squares, as well as artists working in public places where anyone can watch their craft. Now the sidewalk itself is becoming a canvass.

Intricate designs can be chiseled into the stone slabs that still remain in some old sidewalks or formed into newly poured concrete. The first stone chiseled piece actually dates back to September 1982 when Ken Hirastuka, recently immigrated from Japan where he was a known artist, worked a design into a stone portion of the sidewalk in front of 212 21st Street in the Greenwood Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York City.

He was not sure if what he was doing was going to be considered a helpful addition to the ambiance of the community or closer to vandalism, so he worked late at night and once was run off by police. Since that time he has completed about 40 works of art in this medium–designs sometimes geometric and sharply defined and at other times figurative and flowing, all chiseled into stone sidewalk pieces.

A Hero Emerges

Hiratsuka was arrested once, but the judge dismissed the charges after seeing the completed work of art. Now he has emerged as something of a sensation in New York City, according to the March 5, 2006, issue of the New York Times. Tours are organized to visit a number of his sidewalk works around the city.

So, the next time you see someone working on an old sidewalk surface with a hammer and chisel, don’t jump to any conclusions. He or she may be an artist working to improve the quality of life in your neighborhood.

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By Monte Sahlin from a report by Meera Subramanian. Center for Metropolitan Ministries. Copyright © 2006 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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