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West Farms art project gets respect

West Farms is no different from the rest of the Bronx. Ride the #5 IRT up Boston Road. Ride the Bx42 up East Tremont Avenue. West Farms sports a coat of graffiti.

But a wood sculpture made possible by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Bronx River Arts Center (BRAC), has stood at the corner of Boston Road and East Tremont Avenue for three months and is 100 percent graffiti-free. The sculpture, titled Aurora, commands respect.

“Graffiti was a fear,” BRAC gallery director Jose Ruiz said. “People climb and sit on the sculpture but no graffiti. The sculpture is youthful and raw. I think it appeals to graffiti artists.”

Aurora stands under the West Farms Square – East Tremont #5 IRT station is a product of pARTners, a DOT and BRAC initiative, and the West Farms Square Renewal Committee, a BRAC initiative funded by the Deutsche Bank Foundation. Mexican-born artist and Brooklyn resident Diego Medina used marine birch plywood to build the abstract sculpture, 14 feet tall, 11 feet wide and 11 feet deep. Aurora is composed of interlocked geometric shapes: pillars, an arch and a star. It appears different on each side.

Diego named the sculpture after a poem by Spanish artist Garcia Lorca, who visited New York City in 1929 and witnessed Black Tuesday, the start of the Great Depression. Aurora the poem explored the pain and hopelessness of the Great Depression; Medina wanted Aurora the poem to represent faith and hope in the context of our current economic recession.

“ There is a tomorrow,” Medina said. “There is work. There is love.”

Medina wanted Aurora to cheer West Farms residents but the sculpture is also intended to help Bronx Zoo visitors. The #5 IRT station sits near the zoo but visitors are often confused when they descend to East Tremont Avenue and Boston Road.

BRAC executive director Gail Nation described Aurora as a “landmark” and a “visual signal that things are changing for the better” in West Farms. Nathan thinks the sculpture and refurbished plaza, and the $7 million renovation of BRAC in 2010, will stimulate business in the poor neighborhood.

Embrima Faal of West Farms, 11, paints at BRAC after school.

“I think [Aurora] is fabulous art,” Faal said. “No one wants to sit on the benches and look at each other.”

West Farms resident Joe Niceforo, 55, thinks the sculpture needs a nickname.

“It looks like a funny question mark,” Niceforo said.

DOT Bronx Commissioner Constance Moran rode around the borough to select spots in need of public art. The corner of East Tremont Square and Boston Road cried out for a sculpture, Moran said. West Farms graffiti artists agree.

“I don’t know what [the sculpture] means but I think it’s cool,” Malick Zannelly, 13, said.

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