Surplus Paint from the Brooklyn Bridge Gets a Second Act


Wish the Brooklyn Bridge a happy 130th birthday on May 24 at Urban Folk Art gallery during a group show featuring art made with surplus paint from the bridge itself. Photo Julie Strickland

Wish the Brooklyn Bridge a happy 130th birthday on May 24 during a group show featuring art made with surplus paint from the bridge itself. Photo Julie Strickland

The Brooklyn Bridge will turn the big 1-3-0 on May 24, and Adam Suerte, founder of Urban Folk Art and Brooklyn Tattoo, is throwing it a birthday party. The Brooklyn Bridge Anniversary group art show, now in its fourth year, is a free celebration of the New York City fixture, a major influence on Suerte’s art.

This year’s show comes with a twist: The 30-plus local artists participating were asked to make their artistic homage to the iconic East River span with surplus paint used by the NYDOT to do touchups on the bridge. Each artist will somehow incorporate the “Chocolate Brown Enamel” into his or her work–even if it’s just used to paint the frame of a photograph.

We caught up with Suerte to find out what to expect from this year’s celebration, and how he procured enough bridge paint for an art show in the first place.

BB: How did you come up with the idea for the Brooklyn Bridge art show?

AS: I grew up in South Brooklyn, and I was about 13 when the bridge turned 100. It was a huge, all-city celebration. I remember being up at the end of the promenade for the fireworks and a sea of people overflowing the area. Then there was nothing until the bridge turned 125, when there was like a five-day celebration. I wondered why there wasn’t a celebration every year, or at least made it my business to make my own celebration.

BB: Where did you get the idea to incorporate the DOT paint?


Suerte is selling some of the paint in quart-size cans with custom labels he designed himself for $25 at the show. Photo: Adam Suerte

AS: When I saw that the paint was being offered, I thought, I have to get some of that. I found a Dutch auction where you could bid on just a few cans, so I got five buckets. I gave one to the guy who gave me a ride to pick them up at the DOT warehouse in Dumbo, and then thought it would be a cool idea to use the paint and make everyone else use it. The people who might purchase the art would not only be getting an expression of the bridge through a local artist’s eyes–they would also be getting a piece of the bridge.

BB: What kinds of artists are involved with this year’s show?

AS: We have painters, illustrators, comic artists, legendary graffiti artists, toy designers, animators, printmakers, tattooers, photographers and some artists who work in a variety of mediums. It will be a very well-rounded group of work. We have so many different artists with separate backgrounds; it will be fun to see what people come up with. The only criteria is that the work be representative of the bridge somehow and that the paint be used somewhere on the piece. The paint is semi-gloss enamel, it’s pretty stinky and industrial, so it’s not the easiest to work with. It’s also chocolate brown, so it ought to be challenging for everyone.

The Brooklyn Bridge Anniversary group art show opens at Urban Folk Art gallery, 101 Smith St. (at Atlantic Ave.), on May 24 at 7pm and runs through June 30. Suerte will also be offering $30 Brooklyn Bridge tattoos at his shop on May 23 in honor of the bridge.

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