191st Street Subway Station Tunnel Murals (Lost Archives)


I vividly recall the striking murals that adorned the walls of the #1 191 Street Subway station tunnel. In 2015, a stunning array of graffiti art graced the walls, with plans to remain for a mere 11 months. However, much to the surprise of the local community, the vibrant artwork remained for an extended period, becoming a cherished fixture of the Washington Heights neighborhood.

Sadly, in January of this year, the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT), which exercises control over the subway tunnel, abruptly painted over the murals and graffiti without any notice or announcement to the residents. The NYC DOT's dominion over the tunnel passageway, which is designated as a street despite its linkage to the MTA subway system, caused an outcry among the community.

Yet, in a display of resilience, resistance, and creativity, graffiti artists rebuffed the nude tan-brown desolate walls with fresh artwork. While not equal in quality to the original graffiti that formed part of the 2015 Beautification Project, the new artwork and tags demonstrated the determination of the community to reclaim the walls as a form of public expression and ownership.

Recently, I discovered some photographs that I had taken of the murals before they were overwritten by other artists' tags. These images capture a lost archive of the subway tunnel's former glory, an arresting display of graffiti art that once adorned the walls. Now, after eight years of tags and re-tags, the once-striking murals have been replaced by a mass of indistinguishable, uninspiring art captivating no one in their city commute. Now, NYC DOT is looking to repaint the walls again to beautify the once-colorful subway tunnel.

See the original beginning of the murals here: NYC DOT Flickr


1. Richardson, Kemberly, "Surprise graffiti cleanup at 191st Street subway tunnel causing controversy", abc7NY, January 23, 2023

2. afinelyne, "NYC DOT Announces Search for Artists to Beautify 191st Street Tunnel", GothamToGo, January 23, 2023


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