ON VIEW IN MEATPACKING: Misha Tyutyunik
October 12, 2020
A month ago, we hosted Future Streets: a three-day activation showcasing what the future of New York City’s streets could look like. Developed in partnership with the American Institute of Architects (AIANY), the American Society of Landscape Architecture (ASLA-NY), and the American Planning Association (APA- NYM) along with support from the City of New York, the project explored how the streets of the Meatpacking District can be reoriented around the pedestrian. The program included new public seating, green space, and a live mural by Misha Tyutyunik. Get to know Misha below.
Tell us about your relationship with art? Was there a formative experience in your life where you decided that this was your calling?
As far back as I can remember, I have always been an artist. There really never was anything else that I wanted to do. I believed we all start out as artists, but this world systematically eradicates our creativity, forcing us to only be defined as productive cogs in the grand machine. Fortunately, under the perfect cocktail of conditions, my creativity survived and flourished.
Your Instagram profile says painter, muralist, illustrator, and educator. Tell us about the educator part?
I believe everyone that has some answers on how to think and live outside of the box, has a civic duty to pass that knowledge on. Since the very beginning of my career, it has been a big part of my creative practice to be an artist-educator, working with youth and adults around the world to pass on artistic and life lessons through the creation of public art. I have partnered with several public institutions to foster that practice including The Brooklyn Art Council, BRIC, Groundswell, the Fulbright Program through the U.S. State Dept., several local business improvement districts, and a few small non-for-profits (501C3s).
You’re originally from Ukraine. What brought you to the States?
I grew up until I was 7 years old in Soviet Ukraine. My family moved to the U.S. in the late summer of 1991 when the Soviet Union opened up its borders right before its ultimate collapse. My parents wanted to provide my sister and me with a wider array of opportunities than they could have imagined for themselves. This decision shaped my life as an artist and gave me a real chance to pursue my dreams.
How did you get involved with Art Bridge?
They reached out to me during the beginning of quarantine and proposed a project that felt important and safe. The rest, as they say, is history.
You’ve done a lot of murals across the city. What does public art mean to you and why is it important?
Public art if done with the right intentions, can be the voice of the people, aiding in uplifting the community and helping those that are often silenced, to be heard. My approach to public art has always been from the perspective of involving the people that live in the area where the mural is painted. From the initial ideas and concepts to the actual fabrication, I strive to work with local youth, students, and residents to create public art. I am more or less just a conduit helping distill these ideas into a cohesive composition that can then be translated onto a wall. If public art is not created with the participation of the public and to serve their interests, is it in fact ‘public’ art?
Where does the nickname “MDOT” come from?
MDOT is a pseudonym given to me by friends and acquaintances, that I adopted as my artist name. It stands for the phonetic spelling of M. (M – the first letter of my name, and the period is a DOT) and is derived from my signature which happens to be, you guessed it – an ‘M’ followed by a dot (.) I almost wish I didn’t just explain that 🙂
You recently partnered with us for a mural on Little West 12th St during our “Future Streets” installation. Can you tell us about the inspiration for the piece?
This piece was inspired by what I imagined the future would be like where pedestrians took back the streets from the dystopian grasp of Robert Moses’ world constructed for the automobile. Where people walked on the cobblestone surrounded by trees and plant-based environments; where one could explore without looking both ways; where walking was more important than driving and no one ever had to be late to work; where the streets were the front yards of the city and ripe with vendors offering their goods and services; a retro-future New York focused on human and environmental growth instead of industrial and corporate interests.
Throughout your career, you’ve had a number of impressive projects and partnerships. Can you tell us about a few of your favorite projects?
I am fortunate enough to be relatively successful in a profession that I have chosen for myself. Every project I do is my favorite at the time that I am doing it. As I have mentioned, the ones that mean the most, usually have the most impact in the communities that they serve. That being said, my favorite projects tend to be the ones where I can engage with the people and where they are involved in the conception and creation of the project. I have been fortunate enough to work with extremely talented people throughout NYC and the tri-state area as well as several cities and towns in Mexico, Canada, and my native Ukraine. Each time I was able to speak with the community and have them be a part of designing and fabricating the mural, the results have been super rewarding. Currently, I am in Ukraine working with the people of the city of Zaporizhia to create a mural that commemorates the city’s 250th anniversary. Right now, this is my favorite project.
Thoughts on the future of New York’s art scene? What’s next? Especially with COVID-19, what do you think will be different in the coming months for artists in New York?
It is my belief that art as a concept is a series of pivots and innovations as a response to the limitations of the physical world and its systemic practices. With that said, I think the New York art scene is and will be experiencing a sort of renaissance in the coming months and years. I have seen a resurgence in graffiti and street art while the upscale galleries and luxury art markets have been largely unaffected (as per usual with any luxury markets as they usually profit from crisis, except maybe for a few complaints about smaller crowds and attendance due to social distancing). As with any crisis brought on by capitalism, COVID-19 will breed creativity and fantastic art unlike the world has ever seen. Artists thrive under these types of conditions; we always have.