NEW YORK – Just in time for the busy summer season, the Alliance for Coney Island is excited to have a new welcome sign celebration Coney Island’s past, and its present.
The sign is a 150-foot long mural, painted by Danielle Mastrion. She’s an accomplished muralist whose work is in all five boroughs, and beyond.
CBS2’s Dana Tyler spoke with the proud Brooklynite as she finished her latest project.
The Alliance for Coney Island will celebrate the completion of Mastrion’s “Welcome to Coney Island” mural with a ribbon cutting on Stillwell Avenue at 11 a.m. on June 2
“I grew up in Sheepshead Bay and Coney Island, but my mother’s family is from Coney Island. So yeah, so this is my home. This is my neighborhood,” Mastrion said.
“How special this must be, to do this,” Tyler said.
“I’ve done several murals in the neighborhood over the past couple of years on a smaller scale, but this one really is the one that hits home for me. This is, like, my love letter to Coney Island, and to everyone who comes here,” Mastrion said. “Like all the tourists from all over the world that come to visit Coney Island, this is the first thing they see. So I wanted the impression to be really, really impactful.”
Mastrion said the sights and sounds of the neighborhood inform her work.
“It inspires the wall, the smells, the sounds. You can hear the rides, like the boardwalk on the weekend, which is open now. Like, all of it I feel, like, plays into what goes into the wall, and I just really hope people can feel it and see it when they first see the mural,” Mastrion said.
“How do you decide what you’re going to put here?” Tyler asked.
“My idea behind the mural is it’s Coney Island at night. And then it’s also Coney Island in the daytime, because it turns into two different neighborhoods. That’s why you have the darker colors on one side. The sideshows, like fire breathers and all the performers that you have at the sideshows, which is, like, an incredible surprise when you come down here, And it’s also like an honor to all of the arts that are down here. The fireworks, the lights of the Luna Park, the entryway, the moon, that’s something that you can only see at night. And everyone comes to Coney Island in the summertime for the Friday night fireworks. So I know the fireworks mean a lot to the neighborhood. And then you transition to the daytime and the daytime is the fun the beach, the rides,” Mastrion explained. “The Mermaid Parade and Coney Island tradition of mermaids, that’s why the middle of the piece is the gigantic mermaid.”
“And another thing about the mural is when you’re up close, there’s so many details. And then there’s other things that you see from far away. So you’re constantly having to walk up to walk away from it. It has different impacts. It’s so big,” Mastrion said. “I wanted to make it so it’s almost a little bit of an optical illusion. And you have you have to play with it the way like you play with the ride, do different things. So it’s a little interactive.”
Mastrion explained some of the other images incorporated into the mural.
“And then obviously the beach chairs, the beach umbrella, the little boy with the shovel and the pail, and the sand castle. So this is the beach the daytime. One of my favorite little Easter eggs. hidden things inside the mural is the rabbit inside the Coney and some people know it. Some people don’t. A lot of people driving by been like, you’ve included the rabbit,” Mastrion said.
“Coney, or an interpretation of it, is the Dutch word for rabbit,” Mastrion explained. “The Dutch used to hunt rabbits on Rabbit Island.”
The Cyclone is of course included.
“I wanted it to just be like silhouetted in the background, the way the way it is when you look at like the whole landscape of Coney Island, it’s always in the background,” she said. “And then if you keep going, you have the parachute jump which, again, like I said the silhouette dots the skyline of Coney Island, and everyone knows it. And then a little bit more of the history the old Steeplechase Park. They used to have these round punch tickets and it’s interesting a lot of residents that grew up here say ‘I remember going to Steeplechase Park when I was a kid before it got torn down. I remember those tickets, I have those tickets.'”
At the very end of the mural is the lead horse of the carousel.
“You talked about perspective. We’re so close to the eye here. Just.. as an artist, how do you do what you do?” Tyler asked.
“I get that question a lot. I paint big naturally, or else I wouldn’t be doing murals. You ask me to do something little small and tiny, it takes me forever,” Mastrion said. “But I chose this angle in this shot, because, you know, I wanted to bring you in. The eye is kind of eye level. Some of us are smaller but I wanted you to be brought into that.”
The mural is painted on a wall of Gargiulo’s restaurant.
“This is this is their wall. This is their property. They worked with the Coney Island Alliance to get the wall repainted. They gave permission to it. They’re letting me store my materials there. So super,thank you to Gargiulo, and that’s the sign for their restaurant,” Mastrion said.
Alexandra Silversmith explained what the Alliance for Coney Island is about, and how they chose Mastrion.
“So we’re an economic development organization. And we’ve actually focused on the arts recently, especially over the pandemic. We’ve supported artists but we’ve also beautified Coney Island and it’s been a great opportunity. So this wall had a previous mural on it. Unfortunately, it’s really old, faded, literally falling off the wall. So we have been itching really to fix it and put something really inviting here, and bright and cheerful, and invite people to Coney Island and welcome them. So we applied for a grant. Finally there was an opportunity. New York Mainstreet awarded us and then we did an open call, we got about 70 submissions. And Danielle was the one, and she clearly has a lot of history. So we’re excited. So that’s how it came to be,” Silversmith said.
The “final, final piece of the wall” is the Wonder Wheel.
“It’s the largest piece I and I wanted to make this the biggest element on the wall. Because I think when you come into Coney Island, like the biggest thing that you see looming in front of you is always the Wonder Wheel,” Mastrion said. “But I really loved the neon and the glow at night. So that’s why I wanted to represent this like the Wonder Wheel at night. I feel it’s a little more special.”
The block draws residents and tourists, Tyler pointed out.
“A lot of tourists are being drawn onto Stillwell Avenue this way because of this piece, and we’re hoping it also impacts businesses and brings some foot traffic here. Not just to the amusement park, but to the businesses in the community,” Silversmith said.
“What is it about public art that is in your soul?” Tyler asked.
“I think I have been more driven to create public art because it’s open to everybody. Everyone on the street has access to it, they can look at it, they can have an opinion. They can enjoy it. They can not enjoy it. But it makes art accessible to everybody, which is a little bit different than doing work that’s only found in a gallery or museum, which are incredible and have their specific place and the things that they do, but I feel like sometimes people feel… like they don’t belong in those spaces and, you know, I don’t agree with that. I feel like art should be open and available to everybody. Everyone has a relationship, it should be open,” Mastrion said.