A street artist in Sunset is making a difference in beautifying the neighborhood.
Jenna Morello, 31, has always had an artistic bent, but for the last two years, the current Bay Ridge resident has traveled to Sunset Park and created murals that have locals raving.
“I’m a street artist and when it’s cold, I do galleries and stuff, but what I love to do is paint outside so I’m lucky enough that I get paid for what I like to do. Because I live close to Sunset, it’s easy for me to go down, paint over there, and then come back home,” she said.
Morello admits that her goal initially wasn’t to target the neighborhood. “It never started out for me to beautify Sunset,” she said. “The truth is I have a diabetic dog who needs insulin at certain times so I can’t travel far from him. If I go to Manhattan, it’s longer. This way, I can pause, take care of him, and go back. That’s the initial reason I started painting there, and I just love to paint.”
However, once she started bringing her art to the area, residents were extremely receptive. “They’re super nice,” she said. “The good thing about Sunset Park is that a lot of the people are locals and they don’t mind me and they’ll even come by and compliment me. For the most part, they just kind of appreciate it and in some areas, there’s not a lot of foot traffic so it’s great that my friends and I could go paint and not worry about a huge crowd. Businesses will see it and then they’ll offer me other spots to paint and so on, so it’s a good thing.”
Morello, who has received permission to create all of her murals, currently has about six of them in the Sunset area. “The most popular one is probably one I did in September and it’s a rose mural that wraps around the whole building and it goes from red to orange to yellow,” she said. “That was pretty popular because it’s the brightest. It’s at 43rd and Third Avenue.
“The other side of Sunset,” she went on, “I was commissioned to do a place that makes parts for Navy ships. Sometimes, I use my money. Then I can paint whatever I want, which is nice because people travel to see it and take pictures of it, and it ends up online and that’s a good thing.”
The location of the rose mural was particularly apt. “The rose mural I found out afterwards was near a breast and cervical cancer support group building,” she said. “While I was painting it, women were coming out and saying ‘thank you so much for this.’ It wasn’t intentional but I’m so happy that I put it there. That ended up meaning a lot.”
Outside the area, Morello has had much success with her murals being featured in California, Florida and Arizona. “I’ve painted some places I never thought I would,” she said. “I was flown out to paint for the Super Bowl. I know nothing about sports, but that was great. I just recently painted at the World Trade Center, which was a big thing for me. A bunch of artists and I painted the 69th floor of tower four.”
She has also competed in a street art competition show in California for the Oxygen Network. “My friends and I got to paint and got free paint, food, and a hotel for the summer,” she said. “I made a lot of close friends on the show. It was a boost to my career that I really appreciated.”
After having odd jobs, Morello is glad she’s currently changing the neighborhood for the better. “I was a bartender and I asked myself what am I doing?” she recalled. “I was given this ability for a reason so I should stick with it. The more I honed in, the more it snowballed and opened new doors and it’s been great.”