Building Community Through Art: Street Art Profiles: Peach Tao
Peach is a NYC artist and illustrator bringing communities together through art. Her project for Ray’s Candy Store is part of the 100 Gates Project, which connects artists and merchants in the neighborhood, bringing beautiful walls to life for all of our viewing pleasure while also helping local businesses attract customers in a constantly changing landscape of gentrification and rising costs.
Ray’s Candy Store, a local NYC institution, has been home to many a late-night adventure in the East Village, serving up coffee, famous fried oreos, Egg Creams (think old fashioned milkshake), fries, beignets and more. The owner, Ray, opened the shop in 1974 after he immigrated from Iran. Born Asghar Ghahraman, Ray settled in New York City, where he took on the identity of a Puerto Rican man named Ray Alvarez. Since opening his East Village eatery, he has served customers ranging from Kim Kardashian and Lindsay Lohan to local East Villagers to finance bros out for a night of partying in the continually changing neighborhood. Despite all the gentrification and competition from large corporations, Ray has fought hard to keep his business afloat. With the help of his friends in the NYC community, Ray’s Candy Store continues to thrive, unlike many local businesses. And Peach has helped his business with her colorful, striking artwork on the exterior of the shop.
Peach, who works for another community art organization, Thrive Collective, does art work to build communities throughout NYC. Thrive Collective creates hope and opportunity through arts, sports, and mentoring in and around public schools. Their core programs – Murals, Music, Media, Mentors, and Sports – connect artists, youth workers, and volunteers with local schools as teaching artists, art directors, coaches, and mentors. The organization doesn’t plaster art in gentrifying areas or cover up the local community but instead works with the communities to create murals and artwork that inspires and reflect the people who live there.
Peach recently helped paint a Thrive Collective mural at Lillian Wald Senior Center in Alphabet City, on Avenue D. Among the housing projects, Thrive Collective created a mural to reflect and uplift local residents. The mural pays homage to NYC nurse Lillian Wald, who has been recognized for her contribution to human rights; she pioneered community nursing. The mural also pays tribute to the neighborhood’s rich Puerto Rican heritage, featuring people from the neighborhood on the wall, the national flower of Puerto Rico - hibiscus, and depicts people coming to NYC from Puerto Rico. The street art project was designed by New York artist Fermin Mendoza.
Most recently, Peach painted a community mural at 164 Street and Jamaica Avenue in Queens. For the massive mural, Peach outlined the design and the community is helping color in the wall. Kids love to participate, Peach says, and the community helps create the vision for the theme of the mural. Once everyone helps paint, Peach goes in and puts on the final touches.
Peach, a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design, evokes a worldliness to her work. Her illustrations and murals bring to life places she’s lived or has visited around the world — including Beijing, Venice, Cambodia, Prague, and Greece.
Marnie Kunz is a RRCA-certified running coach and the creator of Runstreet Art Runs, which bring together communities through running and street art. She is a Brooklyn resident, running coach and writer. She enjoys traveling, art, and eating messily. You can follow her running and events at @Runstreet Instagram and Runstreet Facebook.
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