San Juan, Puerto Rico, August 11, 2016 — Despite talk of economic crisis and massive migration, great things are happening in the city of San Juan. Tom Christopher, renowned artist and muralist from New York, is working with a group of talented students to create one of the most challenging and exciting artworks of their lives.
The students, all from the prestigious Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Diseño (Plastic Arts & Design School) in San Juan, are helping to create more than 3,600 square feet of murals. These new works will soon be displayed at Paseo Caribe, an exciting new neighborhood located at the gateway to Old San Juan and just minutes from Santurce, an area known for its amazing street art.
As project visionary and leader, Tom Christopher is mentoring and sharing his studio with the emerging artists. The students are involved in all aspects of mural creation: they contribute ideas, help to select colors and patterns, sketch, paint, format, and print. The murals were commissioned by CPG, a New York-based real estate company that has expressed a commitment to supporting the people of Puerto Rico through its work on the island.
Christopher’s work was inspired by the Puerto Rican working class, and follows in the storied footsteps of Thomas Hart Benton, Diego Rivera, and the WPA artists. “This is a tribute to the everyday Puerto Rican,” he says. “The murals tell the story of the people who built and sustain the country’s economy. Set in the beautiful light and brilliant colors of Puerto Rico, they depict the honor and pride in work well done. From the city of San Juan to the rain forests and rural areas, the workers of Puerto Rico are celebrated in paint.” Among the mural’s many images are a sweeper at the Old San Juan capitol building, a construction crew at a housing project, a mom jogging with a baby carriage in the streets of Old San Juan, an architect, a guitar player with a tip jar, along with many other scenes of blue and white collar workers and daily life in Puerto Rico.
Christopher’s studio has been open while he and the students work, inviting the public to observe the live creation of art on a huge scale. After over a year of work, the murals are now complete. Installation of the first two murals will begin on August 15th, and the final two murals will be installed in early September. Finally, it will be possible to view Christopher’s innovative artwork in the Caribbean for the very first time.
Paseo Caribe, the host of the Tom Christopher murals, was once an abandoned area in the heart of the San Juan. Christopher’s project has made the students an integral part of a great revitalization project for the neighborhood. “Paseo Caribe is now a vibrant place where art students are expressing passion for their lives and their city,” says Christopher. “It has helped them to find beauty in the midst of crisis, to give back to their community, and to learn that hope and creativity can work hand in hand to create wonderful results. Our murals will not only add life to the spaces they occupy – they will also celebrate the virtue of the work ethic and the passion for doing work we love.”
“The citizens of Puerto Rico have an unparalleled work ethic and have managed to continue to celebrate life in the face of great challenges,” says Sam Kirschner, the CPG partner in charge of Paseo Caribe. “With Tom and the students leading the way, we want to pay homage to the working women and men of Puerto Rico. We believe they are creating a work of art and beauty that the people of Puerto Rico can take great pride in.”
Tom Christopher is a classically trained draughtsman. He received a BFA from the Art Center College in Los Angeles, studying with the legendary Disney animator Ward Kimball and the painter Lorser Fietelson. He then worked for Peterson Publishing, drawing automobiles for Motor Trend Magazine; created rock posters for CBS Records; and drew portraits at Disneyland. After moving to New York in 1981, Christopher went on drawing assignments with Meredith Vieira and John Stossel, covering courtroom drama for CBS News in downtown Manhattan. This experience, in part, formed the foundation for a narrative and journalistic approach to his art.
Although born in Hollywood, and steeped in the LA hot rod/skateboard culture, Christopher became obsessed with painting household objects and tools on a Brobdingnagian scale, exhibiting in galleries in the East Village. He would always carry a sketchbook, endlessly drawing and recording everything from subways to skyscrapers.
Now, Christopher’s subject matter is largely focused on the streets of New York. However, calling him a New York painter would be as much a mistake as calling Kirchner a Berlin city scene painter. They have both used the subject of the city as a launching pad to explore the many aspects of man’s struggle in an urban environment. This theme is universal, as Christopher’s paintings have found a following worldwide.
Most of Christopher’s work is painted using small batch, handmade acrylic paint. Pencil lines from the initial exploratory sketch stage often remain on the white canvas. These raw areas give the painting both breathing room and serve as a reminder of the process. His artistic vocabulary ranges from lines that loop and skit around to delicate watercolor washes, and from heavy brushwork to thick impasto with swirls and drips of color.
Partner and Chief Operating Officer
Samuel Kirschner is the CPG Real Estate partner responsible for overseeing the development of Paseo Caribe as well as running CPG’s distressed debt and special servicing businesses. Mr. Kirschner has been part of CPG since its founding 18 years ago — first as a banker and advisor, then joining the firm as a partner 5 years ago. Prior to joining CPG, Mr. Kirschner was a founding partner of Dawn Homes Realty Investors LLC, an equity fund that acquired and operated multifamily housing developments throughout the Northeast United States. Prior to his time at Dawn Homes, Mr. Kirschner held senior management positions at Hypo Real Estate Capital Corporation, GMAC Commercial Mortgage Corp., and Daiwa Securities. Earlier in his career, Mr. Kirschner practiced real estate law at Kaye Scholer and was a practicing CPA with Ernst & Young and The Equitable. Mr. Kirschner received his Bachelor of Science undergraduate degree from SUNY Albany School of Business, where he graduated cum laude. He received his law degree from Fordham University School of Law where he graduated cum laude, was an Associate Editor of the Law Review, and was a Member of the Order of the Coif.