On June 30, 2018, 2,000 square feet of Wu-Tang Clan and weather-consciousness flooded Staten Island’s Artist Alley with the unveiling of “Climate Change Ain’t Nuttin to Mess With”. The mural was created by artist Cody Prez and curated by Tariq Zaid, Co-Owner and operator of Staten Island’s premier streetwear boutique Richmond Hood Company. Zaid is deeply rooted in youth outreach and expressing the culture of the community, so when a friend showed him a canvas piece inspired by Hurricane Maria, it propelled him to bring more awareness to the topic of climate change in a way Staten Island has never seen before.
“We pitched the project to Staten Island Arts with a public awareness message and they liked it. We also included the 8th-grade art class at I-61 William A Morris Middle School, so there was a youth component and a workshop program there,” said Tariq Zaid, Co-Owner of Richmond Hood Company. With the support of Staten Island Arts and the Department of Cultural Affairs, Hurricane Wu was born.
“You never thought you’d hear Wu-Tang and climate change in the same sentence. But the whole Wu-Tang thing was special to us and that’s why we tied in the youth to participate because Wu-Tang is for the children. So is Richmond Hood Company.”
Striking. Shocking. Inspiring. These are the adjectives artist, aerosolist and creator of the mural, Cody Prez, uses to describe the mural and the impact he hopes it would make on the community. “I like cynics and I like doubters. And there’s a lot of doubters in climate change,” he says.
Staten Island, also known as “the Forgotten Borough” is about 65% Republican and being the only Republican borough in New York City has its disadvantages – especially when it comes to expression and art.
“It is challenging when you have people who run programs and control budgets and they don’t appreciate public art. Some don’t even want it, when everywhere else in the world it is creating community pride and a cultural landscape giving people cool places to visit,” says Zaid.
When some people hear about Staten Island, they automatically think Republican. But true Hip-Hop heads think of the game-changing rap group Wu-Tang Clan, who were some of the first to represent Staten Island. So in collaboration with the creator of the sacred Wu emblem Mathematics, Prez and the kids from I-61 helped paint Hurricane Wu.
“Wu-Tang Clan is Staten Island all the way, they put Staten Island on the map and this is another way for us to pay homage to the clan, given some of them are personal friends and everyone is a fan. Every album they’ve ever produced is heat to me,” says Prez.
When asked about what art initiatives like “Climate Change Aint Nuttin’ to Mess With” could mean for Staten Island’s culture, Tariq says, “Our constant reminder to everyone is that there are five boroughs, not four. We provide a platform for the creative community to show the rest of New York City that we are part of New York City and that cultural cool component that exists everywhere else in the boroughs also exists over here.”
The other 5,000 square feet of wall space in Staten Island’s Artist Alley was dedicated to breakthrough pieces like artist and tattooist Magie Serpica’s oversized heart mural that sheds awareness on winter depression.
Some of several other artworks unveiled were from Shawn McArthur & Jodi Dareal, Zionlineal, Outer Source, Kwue Molly, Woodz and more.
It doesn’t stop there. “Climate Change Ain’t Nuttin to Mess With” is only one of two murals created for this art initiative. “Le Royale Tennis”, a mural by Jeremy Nieves that celebrates Staten Islander Mary Ewing Outerbridge for being one of the first to play tennis on United States soil, will be unveiled on Saturday, August 25, 2018 – just in time for the U.S. Open in Queens. Stay tuned!