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A pop of color sandwiched between the concrete and steel of Hell’s Kitchen and Hudson Yards is making even the Port Authority bus ramps look attractive. Texas and New York-based artist Steffi Lynn has created a landscape of joy on W39th Street (east of 10th Avenue), where yesterday she was putting the finishing touches to the freehand painting — a homage to the “We Are Happy to Serve You” takeaway cup refashioned into a flower-filled vase declaring, “We Are Having a Nice Day.” 

Artist Steffi Lynn puts the finishing touches to her mural We Are Happy To Serve You on W39th Street. Photo: Phil O’Brien

“We wanted something not so structured — because there are already so many gray buildings over here. We decided that it would be nice if I did something more natural and earth-related,” said Lynn of the design commissioned by Hudson Yard’s Hell’s Kitchen Alliance (HYHK), funded by local real estate firm Tishman Speyer and in partnership with the Port Authority (the owner of the wall).

She added: “My stuff is very fluid. So even if there’s something a little bit off, it’s easy for me to adjust on site —  and I feel like it’s sometimes more fun that way, to adapt to the environment rather than make sure the design is super perfect.” 

Lynn, who has been commissioned for a wide variety of corporate murals, including National Geographic and Volkswagen, is equally as happy to work on brand-free pieces: “I do love public art,” she said. “ I feel like it’s fun and a bit less advertising.” 

Artist Steffi Lynn directs the finishing touches to her mural We Are Happy To Serve You on W39th Street. Photo: Phil O’Brien

The wall, which once served as a backdrop to the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market and rises in line with a Port Authority bus ramp, was certainly in need of a makeover — previously existing as a drab, vaguely graffiti-covered extended strip. Lynn was aware that painting over the graffiti opened her piece up to the prospect of being tagged, and planned to preempt the risk with a protective coating.

“The last few days have been fine — no one’s touched it,” she said. “So hopefully over the weekend, I’ll have someone come by to coat it so that when you use a pressure sprayer, it won’t ruin what’s behind the tags but still takes it straight off.”

The wall was in need of some love and attention. This is the stretch of W39th Street in December 2018. Photo: Phil O’Brien

While the design is her own, Lynn said the Hell’s Kitchen and Hudson Yards community had been involved in beautifying the corner. One day, a volunteer group from Tishman Speyer came to help lay the first layer of paint: “It was really sweet — it was a team bonding thing. And it was their first time painting things, which was nice,” said Lynn. 

Just yesterday morning, a neighbor saw the work in progress and “came by and dropped off donuts. He was like, ‘have a nice day,’ and I’m like, ‘oh boy, you have a nice day,’” she laughed, noting that the community has been supportive and open throughout the painting process.

The passionate local engagement is due in large part to HYHK Alliance. “The site of the mural is a wall that was frequently tagged and covered in graffiti. We thought the mural in that location would have a big impact and brighten up the street,” said Bella Conway, Marketing and Programming Manager for HYHK.

Locals will remember the stretch of W39th Street being used for the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market. Photo: Phil O’Brien.

The business improvement group has been instrumental not only in working with local corporations to install public art exhibits, but has also been active on the sustainability front, working to manage and expand Bella Abzug Park (and its programming) and adding dozens of street level planters to bring foliage to Midtown’s concrete.

The mural isn’t the only new art on the West Side. In addition to the newly minted painting, a brand-new Photoville outpost (an extension of the popular, immersive yearly Brooklyn photography festival) arrives today and runs through to June 26 in Hudson Yards and Manhattan West Plaza!

HYHK has partnered with the Brooklyn-based nonprofit to host Identity Through Crises, an exhibit that “highlights the many aspects that shape our individual and collective identities — exploring the evolution of identity through global crises and conflict, and celebrating the resilience of the human spirit.” The project, curated by the Pulitzer Center’s Daniel Vasta, Katherine Jossi, and Sarah Swan, will be on display for the next four months in Bella Abzug Park.

Photoville at Manhattan West will be the home to A Time to Laugh, A Time to Dance, showcasing “Five artists, bursting with new life, vibrant energy, and hope undimmed. They are united in their playful mixing of mediums, their bold use of color, their call to believe that magic is still all around us.”

You can check out Photoville at Bella Abzug Park. Photo: Bella Conway/HYHK

Why not check out all three installations this Saturday and “have a nice day” in HK!

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