The Coles House, on Glen Street, is Glen Cove’s oldest home, with many of its florid architectural details dating back to 1690. It was once home to one of Glen Cove’s five founding families.
The house has been designated a city landmark, so it might surprise some that its white siding was recently covered in bright blue and florescent pink graffiti.
The graffiti was not scrawled by vandals. It was done on purpose.
Now owned by Joe LaPadula, the building is home to First City Project, an urban art space whose goal is to expose the community to graffiti-based art, and to showcase up-and-coming artists and local art teachers and students.
For only the second time since its grand opening in March, First City Project opened its doors for Art in Motion, a pop-up art gallery and vendor market on Nov. 10. The house, with its maze-like layout, was filled with local business and artists selling vintage goods, street food and handmade items. There were also exotic cars parked in front, courtesy of LaPadula’s custom auto body shop, Martino Auto Concepts.
The house was covered in graffiti specifically for the pop-up gallery. Because the home is a landmark, it will have to be repainted white in the coming weeks.
LaPadula, who is passionate about art and history, said that the event had a larger crowd than the grand opening thanks to word of mouth. Visitors came from the five boroughs as well as Connecticut and Pennsylvania to see the installations.
As a board member of the Downtown Business Improvement District and a real estate investor, LaPadula understands the importance of attracting people to the city. “I feel like Glen Cove is a diamond in the rough,” he said. “You need to demonstrate that if you build, they will come. If you have something interesting and worthwhile, people will come to you to see it. And twice now I’ve demonstrated that.”
The pop-up gallery also helped kick off LaPadula’s holiday Toys4Tots collection drive.
“I think that it’s important that everybody in the community comes out and supports one another and gets engaged in something that’s exciting and positive and culturally rich,” said Mackenzie Keyes, co-owner of Wildflower Long Island, a Glen Head boutique.
She said she originally stumbled on the space while taking photographs, and had been trying to coordinate an event with LaPadula for a while now.
“I would like to see us do more of those things here because Glen Cove and the surrounding areas really deserve that,” Keyes said, adding that events like these are vital to helping rebuild the city.
Dominick Brasiello, owner of Clean Kicks Long Island, in Glen Cove, said he appreciated LaPadula’s efforts to include his company in the event. “I just can’t applaud him enough, especially him reaching out to us. Being a new business, it was cool,” Brasiello said. “I think it’s for the better of the city — make it a point of impact where people can come from all over and see the artwork people put up.”
With a DJ, food trucks and an eye-catching exterior, every room in the 9,000 square-foot house was crowded with intrigued visitors. Whether they were shopping for homemade items from local boutiques, grabbing a bite to eat or watching “live” paintings by artists Dean Adams and Boogie Tochigi, there was something to see or do around every corner.
While LaPadula said he wished he could keep First City Project open year-round, he added that he doesn’t have enough time or manpower to run it like a museum. He continues, however, to open it for special events.
Local high school students serve as his inspiration, he said. He tells them that graffiti, in a gallery space, becomes art.
“You can use your talent in a positive way,” he said.