Massey Brothers Make Taxis Bloom in Major Public Art Project
Taxis in bloom are coming! New York City will be treated to an extraordinary moving garden for 16 weeks from September 1 to December 31, 2007 as most of the City’s 12,760 yellow cabs travel about with bold, colorful, weatherproof flower decals completely covering their hoods, roofs, and trunks. A privately funded major public art project that will involve thousands of children from the five boroughs as well as adult volunteers, “Garden in Transit” is the brainchild of Ed and Bernie Massey and their non-profit organization, Portraits of Hope. Founded in 1955 as a public art, creative therapy, and educational program for physically disabled and hospitalized children, Portraits has broadened its reach to include a wide spectrum of children and adults using art and teamwork to reach goals that address social issues and beautify the environment. The New York project will help celebrate the centennial of the City’s metered cabs, “TAXI 07,” and has been enthusiastically endorsed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Taxi and Limousine Commission. Said Bloomberg in announcing the project, “Our yellow cabs are an essential part of the New York experience and our daily life, and now our City’s children will have the opportunity to use them as their canvas… This is one of the biggest public art projects our city has ever seen.” Children with medical, physical, emotional, and socioeconomic challenges will be the main participants.
The taxi concept, the Massey brothers explain, was inspired by the “vertical nature of New York City.” Visionaries, they imagine being able to “look down and see a moving canvas, a garden in transit,” that will “transform the way the city looks.” Painting the decals will take about a year and occur in schools, pediatric care units, after-school programs, and public venues. The decals will be applied by professionals aided by volunteers during a three-week period. Participation by taxi owners is voluntary, but is expected to be enthusiastic.
Describing their purpose and methodology, Bernie Massey emphasizes, “The kids are often from challenging backgrounds, and it is essential they see they are important.” He tells them, “You guys are transforming something; you are part of an historic effort.” Generally, work is done in groups of about twenty children for multiple 40 minute sessions. At first, they are each given a small model of the larger item to decorate as they choose. Because they are contributing to only part of a project, the children are shown videos and pictures to get an idea of scale and importance of the whole. Teamwork and decision-making skills are developed, and the children are encouraged to discuss social issues and the relevance of their project to the community.
Ed and Bernie Massey have produced massive (“the larger the canvas, the better it is”) unique art projects across the United States and the world. At 165 feet tall, the spectacular Tower of Hope (2000) in Los Angeles is 14 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty and involved the work of over 3,000 seriously ill children. Applying the principle of “healing arts in action,” they brought painting materials to the children who each completed a small section of the tower wall using, when necessary, specially designed tools such as shoe paint brushes for those without arms and telescopic brushes to be manipulated from wheelchairs. To mark the centennial (2003) of the Wright brothers flight at Kitty Hawk, they engaged sick children across the United States in painting designs that were applied to a 1937 DC-3 that made several gorgeous flybys in the commemorative ceremonies. The Ameriquest (a frequent partner) Soaring Dreams Airship (2005), an exuberantly decorated whimsy produced by thousands of children in after-school programs and hospitals is the largest and most recognizable passenger blimp in the country. Through the end of September, 2006, the Massey vision can be seen at Chelsea Piers in New York City where hundreds of children from local public schools, hospitals, shelters, and after-school programs produced vibrant artwork that covers 25,000 square feet of walls and floors. Also decorated with boldly colored, joyous designs is a 105 foot working historic tugboat that will ply the Hudson River for several years. Now scrambling to prepare the Garden in Transit project, Ed Massey exclaims, “We are thrilled to bring a project of this scale to New York City. It will symbolize the power of kids, community, art, and teamwork.”#