Meet the founder of ‘Harlem Street Painters’

Oct 8, 2010 @ 7:00

By HarlemGal
As we approach the annual Harlem Art Walk, which is taking place this weekend (October 9th and 10th), we wanted to introduce one of the artists who will be participating in that event as part of our second installment of the HCL Artist Profile. Our first HCL Artist Profile featured Harlem watercolorist Lynn Lieberman. In a Q&A conversation with, meet Maria Amor Franco, a Harlem resident and founder of “Harlem Street Painters.”

What is your occupation? And where do you reside in Harlem?
I am an oil painter. I live near Marcus Garvey Park.

As an oil painter, is your work linked to the community of Harlem? If so, tell us how?

Painting by Maria Amor Franco

Yes, my work is linked to the community in two ways. I founded a group of painters called the “Harlem Street Painters.” We are a group of painters who travel with portable easels and paints. We set up and paint around the streets of Harlem.  So far, we have settled into the area of 123rd and Lenox.  We paint on Sunday mornings, depending on the weather.

There is a second way my work is linked to the community.  Since I moved to Harlem, I became aware of the custom of wearing hats on Sunday!  I greeted women on the street and commented on their hats.  Then I began to take photographs of them wearing their hats.  The image is so precious and beautiful, I responded by painting them.  So now I have begun a series titled “The Ladies of Harlem in their Hats.”

What is it like painting on the streets while people pass by?
An unexpected pleasure of this meetup with other painters is our audience. I can’t tell you how enjoyable it is to interact with the people as they pass by.  There is so much interest, curiosity and respect for art.  So many people comment that they also paint!

Where did the name “Harlem Street Painters” come from?

Painting by Maria Amor Franco

A tradition of painting outside began with the Impressionists in Europe.  It began soon after they discovered how to put paint into tubes-this made the paint portable.   These painters called themselves “plein air painters.” It is french and it means “fresh air painters.” I tried to think of a name that would be more representative of our mission.  Our mission is to capture and paint in whatever medium we choose as long as we capture the beauty of Harlem. It is a big undertaking. But it is a start. I hope that the “Harlem Street Painters” can produce enough art to create an exhibit at the Harlem museum one day.

How many artists participate in “Harlem Street Painters?”
Thirty two painters are signed up.  On any given day, four to eight artists paint.

We always ask our artists featured in the HCL Profile what they like most about Harlem. Tell us what are your favorite things?
The strength of spirit and hope of the people, openness and acceptance to all races and religions, and curiosity about art.

If you are interested in learning more about Maria Amor or “Harlem Street Painters,” click here or better yet, check out the Harlem Art Walk. Maria will be exhibiting several paintings at this event.

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