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Keith Haring Mural in Church-Owned Apartment Building Threatened by Developers

A mural that Keith Haring painted on the walls of a former convent in the 1980s may be at risk of disappearing, as the Church of the Ascension, which now owns the converted apartment building, is facing financial difficulties, James Fanelli and Ben Fractenberg of DNA Info report.

Haring painted the series of dancing figures that gambol across three floors of the five-story building when Grace House, a Catholic youth organization, leased the convent beginning in 1977. According to the New York Times, around fifty kids were living there at the time and some of them were able to see the artist work.

“It was mesmerizing to watch him, and for me, I was very proud of having him there doing that,” Benny Soto, a former Grace House member, said. “I felt like it was for us.”

The Church of the Ascension bought the building in 2009 and used it for food pantries, choir practice, and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings as well as for other community services. It was turned into rent-stabilized studio apartments three years ago.

In May, the church informed the tenants that they would need to vacate the premises by August 1. Besides worrying about where they were going to live, many of the residents expressed concern for the mural. One tenant even reached out to the Keith Haring Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes and preserves the artist’s legacy, for help.

“No one seems to know what will happen to it,” resident Robert Savina said. “There seems to have been no provisions made.” Savina, who described the tenants of the building as artists and students that make up a multigenerational community, recently filed a lawsuit claiming that the renters are protected by the state’s rent stabilization laws since the building was constructed in 1928. “I fell in love with the community here. And the mural, it’s part of our identities," he said.