See Some of NYC's Best Graffiti at 5 Pointz in Long Island City Before It's Gone
Although we've raved about graffiti Mecca 5 Pointz Aerosol Art Center many times in the past, we've never actually devoted a post to it, not even when Long Island City was our neighborhood of the month. And since this New York City landmark will most likely be demolished next year, we figure now's the time to encourage families to take their kids to see this amazing, constantly changing outdoor art installation before it's just a memory.
Since 1993, aerosol artists have been coming from around the world to decorate this 200,000-square-foot warehouse, one of the few places in NYC where graffiti artists and taggers can legally show off their skills. 5 Pointz helped spark the transformation of Long Island City from an industrial area into an edgy arts community. Now, with the neighborhood changing again, 5 Pointz is slated to be replaced with a pair of residential apartment buildings. But there's still time to take your family to see this one-of-a-kind attraction.
Since my family I live in nearby Sunnyside, we've long been fascinated by 5 Pointz. We gawk at it every time we take the 7 train to and from Manhattan. But we really wanted to see it up close so a few weeks ago we made the trip.
Housed on the walls of a five-story warehouse that takes up an entire city block, 5 Pointz is like a colorful maze for kids to roam and explore. Visitors can go on a FREE self-guided tour anytime. Guided tours are 90 minutes long and they include a 30-minute graffiti demo, info about the murals and artists, and a trip to the roof to see the art and the Manhattan skyline. Regardless of whether you go on your own or with a guide, tours only include the outside of the building due to structural damage on the inside.
The weekends are the best time to visit 5 Pointz. That's when you're most likely to see artists at work and, if you're lucky, maybe a deejay and break-dancers, too. 5 Pointz occasionally hosts special events (which are rarely posted on the official website). The best thing to do is drop by to see what's happening.
Very few of the murals at 5 Pointz are permanent. Most walls are continually being painted over. Kids will see artists at different stages of their work, and can ask questions. 5 Pointz curator Jonathan Cohen (a.k.a. Meres) and staff member Marie are around on weekends and happy to talk to visitors. Kids can even bring chalk and create their own temporary masterpieces on the ground.
When we visited, we started on Jackson Avenue and Davis Street, and then walked around the building to where the famous 5 Pointz logo is emblazoned high on the center wall. On some Saturdays, DJ Marly Mar spins tunes and a stand is set up selling T-shirts and other 5 Pointz memorabilia, weather permitting. My young kids loved spotting Elmo high up on one of the walls. My preschooler especially liked the Batman/Catwoman mural. But I think our favorite piece was the New York City on fire mural, which makes it look like you're surrounded by hot lava. There's even a sign that tells you where to stand to get a great photo op.
Once we finished with the parking lot area, we went back to the street and walked around the block. The gate is usually open on weekends so you can cut through the other parking lot and hit the Crane Street side. There are so many incredible works of art and they're constantly changing. It's a really inspiring experience for kids. Not only does it encourage creativity, it reminds children that art is often impermanent, and that's OK.
Although some 5 Pointz artists are working on a petition to turn the building into a cultural landmark, the owner insists that it will come down in 2013, so if you want to visit, it's now or never. Self-guided tours are FREE; guided 90-minute tours are $35 per person and can be booked online.
5 Pointz is located at 45-46 Davis Street near Jackson Avenue. It's easily accessible via subway: the E or M to Court Square–23 Street; the 7 to Court Square or the G to 21st Street. It's also near other Long Island City attractions like MoMA PS 1 and restaurants like the Court Square Diner and the Sage General Store.
Read about other great things to do in Long Island City, Queens.
- Explore Offbeat Art in an Old Bank Building for Free in Long Island City
- Long Island City Museums with Kids: Spending the Day at MoMA PS1, the Noguchi Museum and Socrates Sculpture Park
- Long Island City with Kids: 35 Things to Do for NYC Families
- Jackson Heights with Kids: A Photo Walking Tour Around the World in Queens