JERSEY CITY, NJ - An attempt by one local artist to beautify parts of Mallory Avenue were put on hold after some residents are said to have complained to the Department of Public Works about the painting of the tree trunks.

“A few constituents in the neighborhood that were concerned about the flare it would bring to the neighborhood by copycat street artists painting more trees,” said Khemraj Chico Ramchal, a community activist, of the effort that saw several tree trunks adorned with the colors of the rainbow.

While Tree trunk painting is not dangerous to the health of the tree, provided the right paints are used, city officials were concerned about the creation of public art in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“We really appreciate artists and the arts, but please don’t be like the artist who took it upon himself to paint a tree during the pandemic,” Ramchal said. “I was more concerned about the paints which can damage a tree's life support system by clogging lenticels and killing cambium tissue.”

While public art is certainly encouraged in Jersey City, as displayed by countless works across all communities, it is also regulated. The city’s mural program started as an offshoot of a larger, citywide anti-graffiti program funded by a state Clean Communities Grant. 

Originally focused on providing opportunities for local artists, the program set aside a portion of the grant to cover paint supplies and small art stipends for artists depending on the size of the wall and the time required to complete the project.

The mural program is led by a team of managers, artists, and administrators in the mayor’s office, the Department of Cultural Affairs, and the Department of Public Works, who work directly with neighborhood groups, educational institutions, small businesses, and private property owners to select ideal locations, recommend artists, and help to determine the theme and content of the murals.

Most of the artists reach out to this team with their portfolios and mural proposals, according to city officials, or are sometimes recommended by residents or business owners.

“There really should just string solar lights around the trees, lots of cool led colors available! I am not anti-artist by any means, but I believe trees are not a canvas,” Ramchal said.

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