On Rogers Avenue, between Sterling Place and Park Place in Crown Heights, is one of the most unique pieces of street art we’ve seen recently. It’s a bronze sculpture, often tucked behind refuse and recycle – a cast of a homeless boy, “J” who was 8 years old when the piece was installed last June by J himself, his mother and artist Knutte Wester (only known as KW on the plaque). The accompanying plaque reads:
J is 8 years old and lives with his mother and brothers in a homeless shelter in Brooklyn. This cast of his shoulder, this carbon copy of a fragment of him, was made on 06/02/15. This is his shoulder, that day.
Before J and his family came to the homeless shelter in Brooklyn where he now lives he lived in another homeless shelter. Before that he lived in yet another shelter. Before that he lived in another homeless shelter. But before that, he says, we lived here.
But then he was much shorter.”
Without having to say much, even in the plaque, the piece is a powerful reminder of neighborhood change and the state of homelessness and affordability in New York City. The partial body could reflect J’s own split identity, with the physicality of attaching a copy of one arm with fist clenched to his old home.
Wester writes on this website that this was installed in June 2015 a month after he moved his studio to The Pulaski Homeless Family Shelter in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. There, he writes, “I arrange sculpture workshops for people living there. At the shelter there lives thirty mothers and their children. For weeks we make plaster casts of each other’s hands and feet.