Aug. 4, 2023 By Carlotta Mohamed
Elected officials, community and business leaders joined the Asian American Federation (AAF) in Murray Hill for the unveiling of a new mural depicting the Korean community’s cultural heritage on Wednesday, Aug. 1.
The unveiling event, at 40-20 149th Pl., featured a traditional Korean drumming performance by members of the Korean American Senior Citizens Society.
Created by artist Ji Yong Kim and titled “Color of Sound – 음색”, the mural is the third public art project commissioned by AAF’s small business program. AAF chose visual artist Ji Yong Kim, who received his B.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design, to paint the mural, as he is a Korean immigrant himself and resonates with the culture.
“From traditional folk music and dance to modern K-pop, music has always been a defining part of Korean culture. Ji Yong Kim brought this to life so beautifully in his ‘Color of Sound’ mural,” Yoo said. “It is our hope that this mural will draw visitors and further our efforts to revitalize Murray Hill’s commercial area as a destination for experiencing Korean culture.”
Kim’s sincere hope is that the mural will “breathe new energy and harmony” into the area, becoming a “symbol of cultural pride and unity.”
“With this mural, my intention was to celebrate the abundant richness of Korean cultural heritage while creating an engaging and captivating artwork that would draw visitors to the area,” Kim said. “The project has been an unforgettable journey, filled with numerous memorable moments. The unwavering support and interest from many local residents and business owners throughout the creation of the mural touched me deeply and forged a profound and heartfelt connection. It allowed me to reconnect with my Korean background, making the artistic process more personal and meaningful.”
Fittingly for a neighborhood that has the densest concentration of Korean Americans in New York City, Kim’s mural depicts the rich heritage of Korean music and dance, such as Korean drumming and Buchaechum fan dancing. As residents and small business owners are still recovering from the aftereffects of the pandemic and the years-long anti-Asian violence crisis, AAF hopes the mural will draw attention and foot traffic to the neighborhood’s local businesses and serve as a reminder of the community’s resilience.
The mural was commissioned as part of AAF’s ‘Find Your Seoul’ campaign to promote Murray hill, Queens’ Koreatown as the premier destination for Korean culture and food in New York City. The project is supported in part by the Avenue NYC project of NYC Small Business Services and Councilmember Sandra Ung.
“This new mural is an amazing addition to the already-vibrant neighborhood of Murray Hill, and it has been thrilling to watch it come together over the last couple of months,” Ung said. “Ji Yong Kim’s work celebrates the rich cultural heritage of this immigrant community, and I know it will be enjoyed by the many people who visit the small businesses in the area. The Color of Sound is just the latest example of AAF‘s hard work over the years that has revitalized this commercial corridor.”
Congresswoman Grace Meng, Senator John Liu, and Assembly members Ron Kim and Ed Braunstein said the mural beautifies the vibrant Murray Hill commercial corridor.
“Thank you to the Asian American Federation for leading this effort to promote the Murray Hill community, and raise awareness of the outstanding immigrant, Korean, and Asian-owned small businesses in the neighborhood,” Meng said. “These establishments have so much to offer, and I look forward to more people throughout Queens, and across our region, supporting merchants in the area.”
For Liu, the mural is a wonderful addition to the community and a great way to bring people together, stimulate the imagination and attract visitors to the Murray Hill business district.
“Ji Yong Kim did a wonderful job in capturing the rich color and vibrant spirit of Korean music and dance in this artistic interpretation, and we thank him and the Asian American Federation for employing new and exciting ways to beautify the Murray Hill commercial corridor,” Liu said.
According to Kim, the mural breathes “new life into a neighborhood that is already firmly rooted in its own identity.”
“I believe that Murray Hill is a pillar of New York. Together, through joys and hardships, through difficult struggles and uplifting celebrations, the residents in this neighborhood have forged a robust, vibrant community,” Kim said.
Braunstein said the mural will not only serve as an artistic celebration of the neighborhood, but also encourage more New Yorkers and tourists alike to stop by and enjoy the sights, shopping and flavors of Murray Hill.
“I want to thank the Asian American Federation, NYC SBS, Councilwoman Sandra Ung, and the artist Ji Yong Kim for working to make this beautification project a reality, and I encourage everyone to visit and view the mural in person soon,” Braunstein said.
Yong Hwan Kim, president of the Murray Hill Merchants Association, expressed his gratitude on behalf of the small business owners to Kim and AAF for bringing the public art project to the neighborhood through the ‘Find Your Seoul’ campaign.
“The campaign supports our efforts to revitalize the commercial district of Murray Hill. We hope that visitors come to appreciate the mural’s beauty and stop into our many shops and restaurants, which offer the most authentic Korean food and culture in New York City,” Kim said.