An elaborate art project has been in the works for the past several months that many Glen Cove residents may not have heard about, but will soon have a chance to experience. As part of the First City Project, the historic Coles House on Glen Street has been transformed into a showcase for urban-themed art, featuring more than 130 local, national and international artists. The First City Project will be unveiled to the public with a launch party on Thursday, March 2.
“The goal of the First City Project is to introduce the residents of the City of Glen Cove and surrounding communities to the next generation of urban-themed artists,” said Joe LaPadula, the project’s founder and owner of Martino Auto Concepts, who bought the 9,000-square-foot structure in February 2016. The house originally belonged to the JH Coles family, one of the first five founding families of Glen Cove.
“I have a soft spot for historic buildings,” said LaPadula, noting that the designated city landmark structure has architecture details dating back to 1810, with additional portions that can be traced back as far as 1690.
He said when he bought the property, his longterm vision wasn’t 100 percent clear, but because of his longtime involvement in the art world, he soon saw its potential as an art space. He teamed up with Sean Sullivan and Harris Lobel to help curate the project and soon got other artists on board.
“The essence of the First City Project is to use Coles House as a platform to introduce the community to a new genre of art and showcase the rising local area talents with numerous New York area street art professionals,” said LaPadula. “The project aims to start a dialogue with the community where a balance can be achieved through a new art medium and a new spirit of creativity that can rise alongside the traditional values within the first city on Long Island.”
The building had been neglected for many years and the art has infused it with new life. The house has three floors with numerous rooms, every one—and in some rooms, every wall—is designed with the eye of a different artist, creating a very unique and colorful vibe throughout the space. Project collaborators include a wide range of artists, from Glen Cove High School graduates and art teachers from Glen Cove schools, to up-and-coming artists like Whisbe to famous graffiti artists JA, John Crash Matos and EZ and photographs by Najee Smith, son of L.L. Cool J. LaPadula said many of the artists commuted to Glen Cove by train and the work was done on their own dime.
Last week, British street artist Dom Pattinson flew in from London to paint the outside wall. Pattinson has had sellout shows in galleries around the world and his work is part of the private collections of Hollywood celebrities.
“We were saving this wall for somebody and it just came into place,” said LaPadula.
For one of LaPadula’s pieces, he collaborated with Karen Bystedt, who took the last photographs of Andy Warhol before he died. She mailed him a photograph and he added a gold leaf background, done with lace, an old technique used by hot rodders in the 1960s.
“They would put the lace down then spray the candy colors, peel the lace off and get all these crazy designs, so I incorporated that in my piece,” said LaPadula.
In addition to the launch party, the Downtown Improvement District will hold its annual meeting at the house on March 2, where LaPadula will be sworn in as a board member. The event includes food, drinks and music and begins at 6 p.m., at 149 Glen St.
LaPadula said future projects at Coles House include live art events, mural projects, student art classes, artisanal food events and street art themed boutiques.
“The City of Glen Cove is now poised to move forward as a leader in the arts community and FCP is the ideal platform to initiate the conversation of how art and urban renewal can be successfully partnered,” he said.