The Thrive Collective/Marie Roberts Coney Art Walls mural pays homage to Coney Island's fame as a place to see new technological wonders.
Many people saw electric lights for the first time at Coney, its nickname was "The Electric Eden" and the first thing people arriving in the US by ship saw was not the Statue of Liberty but the blazing lights of Coney Island. ( lightbulbs on mural)
Coney had the first artificial beach; sand was pumped in to widen the existing strip and create the large beach we are familiar with today. Coney really was an island!
The mural pays tribute to two of the many inventors and craftspeople:
On The left is Granville T. Woods, the electrical genius who held over over 50 US patents. He made the electric roller coaster possible. He was a natty dresser; students enjoyed portraying that in paint.
Wood's electrical engineering is visualized by lightning bolts, powering the lightbulbs in the border and in the hand of the left mermaid.
On the right is Dr. Martin Couney who invented and popularized the infant incubator. When the medical establishment rejected the idea, Dr. Couney set up in Dreamland in 1904 and then Luna Park. The admission price paid for the infants' care and no parent was charged . Over 7,500 babies were saved and by the 1940's hospitals adopted the practice of incubating premature babies. He died penniless. His daughter was one of the nurses who cared for the babies.
The mermaid on the right points to the Blue Angels flying by; Coney Island was the stage for some of the earliest airshows.
In the central panel is a pyrotechnic display. My uncles Harry and Guy were pyrotechnicians in the early 20th century. My father told me stories of fireworks that released magic lanterns when they detonated, and these lanterns drifted to the ground under parachutes. For me, the image is a metaphor for hope and art.
School Murals by Thrive Collective creates public art that transforms public schools into centers of creative collaboration and change. They raise the bar of possibility as students, faculty, families, and artists conceive and execute a shared vision, together. Their permanence serves as a continuing reminder of what’s possible when communities and schools partner for sustainable change.
Marie Roberts is a painter and native New Yorker living and working in Southern Brooklyn. She received a BA in art from Brooklyn College and an MFA in painting from Queens College (CUNY). She is a Professor of Art at Fairleigh Dickinson University and Artist in Residence at the non-profit arts center Coney Island USA.
Roberts’ work has been shown at venues that include the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, the Brooklyn Museum, PS 1, MOCADA, Deutchbank Galleries. Salina Gallery, LIU, 32 Edgecomb Gallery, Yale School of Art, Gallery SoBab in Seoul, South Korea, and Rivington Gallery in London.
Her work is included in the collections of the Metropolitan Transit Authority NYC, The Village Voice, Merk, CNN, DiDomenico Partners, Laughing Lotus Yoga, Feld Entertainment, as well as in private collections.
Roberts has been the subject of several short documentaries, including “Sideshow Picasso” by Marilyn Agrelo, and the 2015 “This Side of Dreamland” by Joshua Glick and Patrick Reagan. She is included in Coney Island Lost and Found by Charles Denson, City Lights: Tales of New York by Dan Barry, and in media as diverse as The New York Times and TLC’s Cake Boss; and is an ethical vegetarian tending toward vegan.