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Saving the Art That Wealth Will Wash Away


07.23.12 Joshua Rivera

“It’s unfortunate that Franco’s known throughout the world, and people see him in Harlem and it’s kind of taken for granted,” retired police officer Dana Harper says of the man who’s work adorns the street he used to patrol–125th Street in Harlem–the canvas of one Franco Gaskin, or The Great Franco, as he would come to be known worldwide.

Franco’s murals would define the neighborhood, with tour buses even stopping so visitors could see his work. Now, higher rents and gentrification are slowly wiping away his art, as the metal rolldown gates that he would paint on become rarer and his work is forgotten.

In protest, Gaskin’s friends formed a nonprofit to save what’s left of his murals–Team Franco, of which Harper is a member. The group even has the support of the community board, issuing a resolution to preserve his work as it has “lifted the image of Harlem as a community.” The board hopes to start a petition that they will present to the City Council.

“I must bloom exactly where I was planted,” Gaskin said, having worked out of the same apartment for 40 years. Hopefully, with the help of his friends, he won’t wither.

(Photo: Paul Lowry/Flickr)