“Jacopo Ceccarelli approached Tom Walters, OFM, who was at Residence I that day, and asked if he could paint the wall,” said John Felice, OFM, co-director of St. Francis Friends of the Poor. “Tom spoke to me and John McVean, OFM, as well as the staff at the residence, and we all agreed it would be an exciting experiment.”
Ceccarelli, also known as “Never 2501,” is an Italian street artist who has painted distinctive monochromatic images on walls all over the world. His style usually includes a combination of circles, and manipulation of lines, resulting in a somewhat hypnotic effect.
Because Ceccarelli had four days to paint the mural at Residence I, Tom was skeptical “because nothing happens that fast in New York.” But on Friday, Aug. 28, a lift arrived in the plaza of the apartment building next to the residence and Ceccarelli got to work.
“After painting five of the six stories of the Residence a brilliant white, he began creating a dramatic image of something like steel beams reaching up to the sky,” said John Felice. “Those beams then opened up, transforming into to birds that fly free skyward. All of us were amazed by the artist’s speed and skill.”
Tom remained with Ceccarelli through Sunday, when his work was completed. Ceccarelli interviewed and filmed Tom as part of an international documentary on his work.
“What most impressed Ceccarelli was the work of the residences,” John said. “He was deeply moved by the 85 men and women at Residence I with their long histories of homelessness and chronic mental illness. He even came into the residence to give an art class to some of the tenants.
“Tom found Jacopo to be a kind and understanding man with a real interest in the well being of others,” John added. “He flew back to Rome on Monday but left the residence a permanent image of his renowned skill.”
Originally a 100-unit single-room occupancy hotel, St. Francis Residence I opened in 1980 as a place for the chronic mentally ill homeless to live. The residence is one of three operated under St. Francis Friends of the Poor, a non-profit that was founded to care for those with nowhere else to go.
More information about St. Francis Friends of the Poor is available on the organization’s website.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.
- “St. Francis Residence II to Mark 25th Anniversary” — May 20, 2009, HNP Today
- “St. Francis Friends of the Poor Opens New Offices” — July 15, 2009, HNP Today
- “St. Francis Breadline Marks 80th Anniversary” — Oct. 13, 2010, HNP Today