Did you go camping when you were a kid? I did. Do you have fond memories of sleeping in a tent and fishing in a lake? I don’t. Camping taught me one valuable lesson: that I hate camping. Part of it probably has to do with the fact that camping in Malaysia often involves thick jungle, humid air, mosquitoes, leeches, and ghost stories. And sorry, but Asian ghosts are TERRIFYING.
I’m a city girl, through and through. Do I love nature? Sure. I’d love to go on an African Safari or visit a wildlife sanctuary. But camping out in a wooded park in New Jersey? I’ll pass. So when I say “Let’s go bird hunting!”, I’m meaning for bird murals, of course.
Why bird murals specifically? Because we have a ton of them. And it’s not a coincidence. John James Audubon, the name synonymous with ornithology, spent his final years in a large rural estate in upper Manhattan. The first bird preservation society, The National Audubon Society, was named in his honor. It’s since evolved into a powerful non-profit environmental organization dedicated to the conservation of all natural ecosystems.
The Audubon Mural Project is a collaboration between the National Audubon Society and Harlem art gallery Gitler &_____. Together they set out to create murals of climate-threatened birds throughout John James Audubon’s old stomping grounds in New York City. In 2014, The National Audubon Society issued a Birds and Climate Change Report, which studied how North America’s birds may respond to future climate change. It found potential impact on 314 species. So the goal is to commission artists to paint murals of each of these species to bring awareness to the issue.
The Audubon Mural Project is still very much an ongoing venture, with only 67 of the 314 species painted. The murals are scattered throughout the neighborhood on gates, doors and walls. Use the map above to track down all the existing murals. Just note that the ones located on gates might not be visible if the business is open, so plan your bird hunt strategically.
The Audubon Mural Project is still seeking sponsors. Donations would fund the artists and help obtain the supplies needed. If you’re interested in offering assistance, you can contact Avi Gitler of Gitler &_____.
Featured photo is courtesy of Audubon.org, Photo: Mike Fernandez/Audubon.
Note: If you’re looking for amazing street art galleries or just the best street art in NYC, you can find additional information in our definitive guide 10 Exciting Places to Find the Best Street Art in NYC. We promise the breadth of the talent will astound you!
Harlem has an extremely rich history, and has been home to a very diverse demographic. Besides John James Audubon, its famous residents have included Alexander Hamilton, Harry Houdini, Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday. More recent famous residents include George Carlin, Alice Neel and Moby. It’s an essential piece of New York City’s story. Walk around and explore, you’ll come across quite a few gems!
Pair it with:
Dinner at Oso
Oso is a special restaurant in Harlem that captures a magical mixture of good food, good drinks and great ambiance. It manages to feel fresh yet familiar, easy yet sophisticated. The Day of the Dead-inspired wall art is the perfect find to top off a day of mural-hunting. Oso takes Mexican street food and turns it into a dining experience. It strives to makes sure its dishes maintain authenticity by working with a family from Puebla on the menu. The pozole was delicious, and I was particularly enamored with their Pulpo entree, which combines octopus, potatoes, stewed pimento and mandarin oranges. It’ll make you wish Harlem was your neighborhood, and this was your joint.
And here’s a random fact: it’s owned by Alex Trebek’s son!
1618 Amsterdam Ave
7 days 11:00 am-4:15 pm
Sun – Wed 5:00 pm – 10:30 pm
Thu – Sat 5:00 pm – 12:00 pm