Bronx, NY—A mild and sunny day in the Bronx and the Veterans Day holiday brought many people of all ages outside on Tuesday afternoon. The multitudes visiting the stores on 161st Street between Gerard and Rivera Ave were attracted by a talented professional artist, André Trenier, painting a mural on the closed gate of an unoccupied property.
The baseball-themed mural was not the first completed one block from Yankee Stadium, but the eighth. The attempt to appropriately beautify the neighborhood with works of art of iconic baseball heroes who played in the old and/or new Yankee Stadium was planned and organized by Dr. Cary Goodman, executive director of the 161st Street Business Improvement District (161 BID), its board of directors and staff.
The first two portraits were of long-ago but never to be forgotten Yankee immortals, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. The next two were of current Yankee idols, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. The next three were regular contributors to championship teams, Reggie Jackson, Yogi Berra, and Elston Howard, the first African-American to play for the Yankees.
Two young, female artists from the New York metropolitan area, Lexi Bella and Danielle Matsrion, painted the seven Yankee murals. Both were professionally trained and educated. Both worked on canvas, but enjoyed the interaction with the public while working on the gates in the street. Although each was too young to have seen five of the seven play, they did the portraits from a photograph.
Clemente was the first non-Yankee to be the subject of a mural. He was the overwhelming favorite of a fan survey taken by Goodman in the late summer ton represent Yankee opponents. Clemente and the subjects of the final two murals, Satchel Paige, voted to represent Negro League players, and Mickey Mantle, the final Yankee, were selected in the same survey.
Interestingly and appropriately, the artist chosen to paint the final three portraits is a Bronx native. André Trenier spent his childhood in the Kingsbridge community. He was educated at Bronx public schools, P.S. 24 and J.H.S. 141 in Riverdale. Despite having some teachers who remarked to his parents, “André is a nice boy, but should pay more attention in class and not draw so much”, Trenier did not allow himself to be dissuaded from preparing to follow the path he knew was his.
After officials reviewed his art portfolio and he passed the necessary vigorous examinations, Trenier was admitted into Fiorello LaGuardia High School, a specialized public school for those majoring in music and art. The talented Bronx artist received a college degree from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, a city he lived in for five years.
The artist returned to his place of birth and currently lives on Devoe Terrace. Trenier explained why he was excited to be working on 161 Street, “I’ve always been a Yankees fan even though my mother was a Mets fan.” Too young to have seen the great Clemente, who died in a humanitarian mission bringing supplies to earthquake ravaged Nicaragua on December 31, 1972, play, Trenier remarked, “I knew the name before I knew much about the person but I have done a great deal of research on Clemente recently.”
Like the other two artists, with whom he is friends, the Bronx native worked from a photo and used a spray can to do his remarkably competent work. He said using the can is faster than using a brush. He mentioned that working on a gate that has ridges is more difficult than working on flat surface like a wall or a canvas.
Trenier has worked overseas in locations like Paris and Rome, but was happy to be working for the people in his native borough. Many people passing stopped to praise the artist for his outstanding accomplishment. A large number of the neighborhood residents recognized Clemente’s likeness, entered into discussions of his life and career and expressed pleasure of having the mural of the Puerto Rican baseball hero and humanitarian in their community. Although Clemente’s entire MLB career was played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, he is a local hero and a source of pride to the Yankee Stadium community, which is predominantly Latino. Trenier responded to the praise and interest of the passers-by with the comment, “This is great. It’s instant gratification.”
Fortunately, the weather in the Bronx on the next two days was also pleasant enough for Trenier to continue his efforts. On Wednesday, the capable artist created a life-like portrait of the legendary Negro League pitcher Satchel Paige, who entered the majors at the supposed age of 42. On Thursday, he created a mural of Mickey Mantle, which concluded the current series of murals on 161st Street.
The limited number of store-front gates that were available for use by the artists employed by the 161 BID only allowed for one representative for the Negro League and one for Yankee opponents. The only criticism heard by the many who passed by the artist during his three days of outdoor work was that one of their favorites was not being painted.
The next beneficial project of the 161 BID to improve the quality of life of the residents and to promote the local businesses is a street fair that will take place on Saturday, November 22, from 10 am-5 pm. The date is a wise choice as the next college football game at Yankee Stadium will be held that afternoon. Thus, tens of thousands of visitors can see the vibrancy and positives of the area.