It’s OK to Draw on the Walls at 5 Pointz in New York City

One of the many graffiti-covered walls at 5Pointz in Long Island City, New York
One of the many graffiti-covered walls at 5Pointz in Long Island City, New York

5 Pointz – aka the Institute of Higher Burning – is the world’s premier graffiti art Mecca.

A small sample of the used spray paint aerosol cans found at 5Pointz in Queens, New York
A small sample of the used spray paint aerosol cans found at 5Pointz

A Global Community of Graffiti Artists

Located in Queens, New York City, artists from all over the globe descend on this 200,000 square foot warehouse for a chance to spray paint its fabled walls.

Over the years, 5 Pointz has become so popular that numerous musicians and celebrities have paid it a visit; including Jam-Master Jay, Doug E. Fresh, Joan Jett, Joss Stone, and Kurtis Blow.

The name 5 Pointz symbolizes the five boroughs of New York City, as well as the global community of graffiti artists that come together there. It’s also known as the Institute of Higher Burning and 5 Pointz Aerosol Art Center, Inc.

 

A ladder used to paint on the higher-up parts of the 5Pointz warehouse in Queens, New York City
A ladder used to paint on the higher-up parts of the 5Pointz warehouse in Queens, New York City

Affordable Studio Space in New York City

Inside 5 Pointz, as many as 200 artists rent studio space at rates below market value.

This is practically unheard of in New York City, though it may be part of the reason the owner, Jerry Wolkoff, wants to build high-rise condos on that land.

If all goes according to plan, the site will be demolished in September, 2013.

[Updated – Nov. 2013 –  Though the building still stands, Wolkoff has used white paint to cover most of the building’s art.]

 

If Jerry Wolkoff has his way, two new condos will join the Citi Building in place of 5Pointz in Long Island City, Queens, New York
If Jerry Wolkoff has his way, two new condos will join the Citi Building in place of 5Pointz

 

Repainting the wall for fresh art at The Institute of Higher Burnin
Repainting the wall for fresh art at The Institute of Higher Burning

Why Does Wolkoff Want to Demolish 5 Pointz?

There are many answers to this controversial question, depending on who you ask. According to an article in the New School Free Press:

“Numerous complaints and citations have been lodged against 5 Pointz in the past fifteen years by residents of Long Island City, mostly related to maintenance issues. Wolkoff said he has also fielded complaints by neighbors about the graffiti art.

“I get a tremendous amount of pressure from people who don’t like graffiti in the neighborhood,” he said. “Any given day or week I could have taken the art off the walls. Any time I wanted to. But because we like it, we’ve kept it there.”

In addition, Wolkoff said that he is losing large sums of money because of the property. He does not charge the artists who paint at 5 Pointz or accept any compensation from tours, but continues to pay taxes on the building.”

 

Graffiti art covers everything at the Institute of Higher Burning
Graffiti art covers everything at the Institute of Higher Burning

 

Air vents are incredibly important, considering how much aerosol is sprayed inside 5Pointz
Air vents are incredibly important, considering how much aerosol is sprayed inside 5Pointz

A Brief History of 5Pointz

Yoda Joins Occupy NY and the 99% at 5 Pointz
Yoda Joins Occupy NY and the 99% at 5 Pointz

A decade before Meres One – aka Jonathan Cohen – founded 5 Pointz, the site was already being used for legally-sanctioned graffiti art.

According to a New York Times article dated February 15, 1998:

“Using the brick walls of a Long Island City warehouse as a canvas, a group called the Phun Phactory offers graffiti writers a refuge to do their pieces legally, with the landlord’s blessing.

Pat DiLillo, 40, a disabled plumber who founded the Phun Phactory project, [says] that his organization is not out to end graffiti vandalism, but to give aerosol artists a legitimate setting to showcase their talents.

The Phun Phactory, oddly enough, evolved from Graffiti Terminators, formed by Mr. DiLillo in 1992 to combat the spread of graffiti that blanketed buildings in his Woodside neighborhood.”


Exploring the Graffiti Art at 5 Pointz

No visit to 5 Pointz is ever the same, as the site is in a constant state of flux.

The average lifespan of the art is between a week and a year. Then, it’s time for a new graffiti artist to spray the wall.

The outer walls can be visited 24/7, as they are face the street. However, the Institute of Higher Burning is only open Wednesday – Sunday, from 10am – 8pm.

If you want the best view of 5 Pointz, albeit a quick one, then peer out the window of the 7 Train en route to a New York Mets game.

 

That would be my mom, Bonnie, photographing the wall of 5Pointz
That would be my mom, Bonnie, photographing the wall of 5Pointz

How to Get to 5 Pointz

5 Pointz is located on Jackson Avenue at Crane Street and Davis Street, Long Island City, New York 11101. You can find a map here.

Subways: E, V subways to 23 St/Ely Ave., 7 to 45 Rd/Court House Sq., G to Court House Square.

Buses: Q67 to Jackson and 46th Ave. B61 to 46th Ave.

 

Looking up at the Five Points building - Queens, New York City - USA
Looking up at the Five Points building – Queens, New York City – USA

This Post is Dedicated to my Mom, Bonnie

My mom is an amazing artist. She also accompanied me to 5 Pointz as a part of her birthday week celebration. We had a blast checking out the artwork; each of us finding completely different things to be captivated by.

I’m proud to invite you to check out her paintings and mixed media art on her brand new Web site: Art By Bonnie.

Me and my mom having an awesome day at 5Pointz
Me and my mom having an awesome day at 5Pointz

Update: My Mom’s Response to this article…

When I first published this article and posted the link on Facebook, I was thrilled to see that my mom had commented on it. What follows is a direct quote :)

So there we were (on my birthday) about to embark on an adventure that entailed viewing a one square block building emblazoned with graffiti and only graffiti. Their was my son, Greg, camera at the ready. There was his mother, Bonnie, wondering what was she going to do while her son, Greg, spent the next few hours taking photographs.

Now don’t get me wrong – I applaud the creativity and talent that makes up the graffiti style. When I taught high school art and graffiti was the reigning style I tried to teach my art majors how to incorporate the style and still make it their own. But I digress.

There was Greg clicking away and me wondering what I would do when I was overtaken by this great admiration for the way the graffiti artists brought out their lettering. The lettering is usually popping out at you and there are different ways of achieving that effect. So that’s what I photographed while Greg was doing his thing. What I will do with them eventually I have no idea. But they have their own folder.

THANKS MOM!!!


I would love to hear your thoughts on graffiti art in the comments

  • I visited NYC for the first time this winter. I loved seeing all the street art. You got some great photos of it! Happy B day to your mom :)

    • Thanks, Stephen. I’m sure you got more than an eyeful of amazing street art.

  • Thats funny, when I started reading this I was thinking to myself “I think I saw this place from the train when I went to a mets game.” I regret not going back to check it out, so thanks for the virtual tour!

    • Come back when I’m there in May and we’ll catch another Mets game and some more graffiti.

  • Wow – this is awesome!! I’ve not visited many parts of New York yet, but finding amazing graffiti has always been a highlight of travelling around the world! I need to see this place (before Sept ’13 by the sounds of it) yikes! I hope there’s a movement (especially from the celeb visitors) to keep it up! Cities need more dedicated canvases

    • Couldn’t agree more Ian. It’s like how they are trying to move the East Side Gallery in Berlin to make room for luxury condos. Sometimes, art is just more important. Wait, scratch that. Art is ALWAYS more important!