Pencil Artist Builds Museum In The Hill

by Melissa Bailey | September 24, 2007 7:39 AM | | Comments (3)

IMG_9836.JPGWhen Gregory “Krikko” Obbott first peered into the former Hull Brewery, he found it strewn with drug needles, the roof caving in. He looked up at the rafters and saw a new future, and the perfect place to hang his immense pencil drawing of New York.

With a hand from the city, he’s revamping the space into a kid-friendly museum in the Hill neighborhood, set to open its doors later this fall.

Krikko, a Nigerian-born artist who’s settled down in New Haven, has gained national attention for his enormous hand-drawn cityscapes. Commuters in New Haven’s Union Station can see them every day on the way down the escalator.

On one wall hangs a 20-by-10-foot aerial drawing of New Haven. To create it, he spent two years sketching each detail, from rows of tiny cars to the three statues outside the Elm Street courthouse. All the work is done with a pencil, French curves, T-squares — and a good number of erasers.

Krikko’s “Super Big Apple,” an extraordinarily detailed, 15-by-20-foot aerial drawing of Manhattan, includes more than 10,000 buildings and 150,000 windows. The piece, still sold outside the Statue of Liberty and on streetcorners in New York, has been recognized as the world’s largest pencil drawing done by a single artist. He used 2,496 pencils to draw it.

ny%20drawing.jpgThe architect, who first came to the U.S. to study architecture in Louisiana in 1974, has spent the last 17 years living and working in New Haven. From the Krikko Productions offices on Winthrop Avenue, he drafts designs and responds to customers from as far away as Italy and Japan seeking copies of his legendary New York prints.

Krikko had been looking to upgrade his studio when he came across the intersection of West and Ann Streets in a rundown section of the Hill. The building, built in 1900, had long been emptied of the horse-drawn carriages and beer barrels of the Hull Brewing Company. Left behind was a trash-strewn lot, roamed by raccoons and pigeons. There were feces everywhere.

“It was a blighted corner,” recalled Carlos Eyzaguirre, who works for the city’s anti-blight agency, the Livable City Initiative, as a neighborhood problem-solver. In one of four vacant homes that dotted the block, he recalled, a homeless woman was found dead.

The Pencil Museum

In the rubble of the brewery, Krikko envisioned something new: “A Pencil Museum In the Hill.”

For the past three years, he’s been building his vision, piece by piece. The artist last week took a break from working on a new brick wall to lead the Independent on a brief tour. Entering the building, one is greeted by two shining ionic columns, reaching up to the skylights, almost 30 feet above.

IMG_9835.JPG“The pillars welcome you in,” declared Krikko. Then, boom — the viewer’s eyes will be drawn to Manhattan. On the other side is Chicago, said the artist, traversing the room. “And here’s New Haven.”

Krikko has transformed the one-room garage into three levels, to hold a studio and public gallery. “A museum for the kids,” he explained.

In the past, Krikko has visited schools in New Haven and beyond to share his work and passion. (“You can do it too, if you stay in school,” he tells the kids.) With the new museum, he said, students can come to him.

paint_05.jpgThe city has embraced his new endeavor, selling him the building for $5,000 and praising the effort to turn around the corner. All four previously blighted nearby homes have since been rebuilt. Yale’s newest architectural gift stands just a block away.

Stay tuned as the bricks rise … Krikko hopes to open doors in December.

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Posted by: robn | September 25, 2007 1:26 PM

New Haven needs more good solid citizens like Krikko!

Posted by: Dawn | October 9, 2007 1:55 PM

I am thrilled to read about Mr. Obbott's art. There are wonderful things in "The Hill" and it is a shame that the area is so often overlooked. Landlords who leave their property to rot and decay renting only to those tenants who qualify for Section 8, further blight the area. I hope that these efforts are encouraged and that others are drawn to this valuable area.

Posted by: IDARA OBOT | June 26, 2009 11:16 AM

I am excited to write this about Krikko.His drawings are wonderful...He has a true and rare talent......His job needs to be treated with more importance...If i had all the money, i would buy up all his drawing!!!!!!!!!!!

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