If you happen to find yourself at Nevins Street between Douglass and Degraw Streets in Gowanus, Brooklyn, amid all the new construction is a family history. That history is displayed through photos.

It’s the work of Brooklyn-based artist Demarcus McGaughey, who took old black and white photos of his family and transformed them into colorful artworks.

What You Need To Know

  • Arts Gowanus is working with developers in the neighborhood to cover construction fences and sidewalk sheds with art

  • There has been a development boom in Gowanus after a rezoning and with the ongoing cleanup of the Gowanus Canal

  • The artworks are part of City Canvas, a program designed to allow the installation of temporary visual art on eligible sidewalk sheds and construction fences

  • There are more than 300 miles of construction fences and sidewalk sheds across the five boroughs

“Some of them are digitally colored, some are colored with a high fluid acrylic paint, and then some pieces have actually fabrics from my grandmother’s quilt collection,” McGaughey said.

McGaughey’s work, called "Kindred," is part of a mural maze of sorts through the streets of Gowanus, where residential development is coinciding with a cleanup of the historically polluted Gowanus Canal.

Developers like Tavros and Charney Companies, who are developing four new rental buildings in the neighborhood, teamed with Arts Gowanus to find work to cover those unsightly construction walls and sidewalk sheds associated with these projects.  

“The fact that we have a chance to work with some of the local artists and do something that was a little bit special, a little bit curated, a little bit more thoughtful, I think was a really great opportunity just to be a part of,” said Iman Johnson, senior project manager for Charney Companies who is also an architect and an artist. 

Among the works to be spotted around the neighborhood: a spotlight on the artists who call Gowanus home. Around 200 are featured on the walls of Nevins and Union streets.

“I don’t like the aesthetic of green walls, and with some many wonderful creatives in the neighborhood, we need to make this cool, so that’s what we did,” Johnny Thornton, executive director of Arts Gowanus, said.

Under the neighborhood rezoning that made way for the development boom, 11 different sites will feature affordable artist studios, about 30,000 square feet of subsidized studio space.

“The art community is just the very center and the beating heart of what Gowanus has always been, and we want it to always be [a] part of Gowanus going forward,” Nicholas Silvers, founding partner of Tavros, said.

As Thornton says, it’s about keeping the neighborhood identity, making sure artists are right up front where everyone can see.

“It’s a display of what the community is all about and the wonderful art that takes place here,” Thornton said.