The Gowanus mural (photo and courtesy Erin Thompson)

On the side of a building that holds multiple rent-by-the-hour podcast and music recording studios at 156 6th Street in Brooklyn, a seemingly innocuous mural celebrating the Gowanus neighborhood has been making its rounds on social media for its not-so-subliminal messaging.

The mural is literally just the name Gowanus painted in white sans-serif across Pirate Studios’s red brick wall. Innocent enough, right? Several passersby would agree with you, too. Except there’s one outstanding coincidence — the “W” in Gowanus is painted on a garage door. And should that door ever open, the building would loudly proclaim “GO ANUS.”

Overall, the mural seems to be nondescript enough for anyone, including the building’s owner, to pay it any mind. Perhaps they’re just better people than us. Several pedestrians told Hyperallergic that they walk past the building nearly every day and hadn’t paid attention to the mural before. All of them had a good laugh when asked for their thoughts on the awkward placement of the “W.”

“What is that? Gowanus?” asked one passerby after squinting at the red brick wall and flicking his cigar. “If the door was opened, wouldn’t that say ‘GO ANUS’? Is that supposed to be art? Because that’s not art. The stuff next to it is,” he stated, gesturing to some street art on a corrugated metal door to the left of the mural’s letter G. “I do hope the door opens one day, though.”

Us too, David.

A quick snap of the mural in progress from around four years ago. (photo courtesy Pirate Studios)

When Hyperallergic inquired about the mural, Pirate Studios claimed responsibility for the “little in-joke.” Sammi Alani, the vice president of Pirate’s operations in North America, said that the company commissioned the mural after they had signed the lease on the building about four or five years ago. It started out as a joke, as the word “Gowanus” is usually inadvertently pronounced “Go Anus” in British English.

“It’s intentional,” Alani said in a phone interview with Hyperallergic. “And it’s not the first time we’ve done something like this, either. Our recording studio in West Adams [Los Angeles] was originally a dildo factory, and our Silver Lake location [also LA] was a sex shop!”

Alani was kind enough to share the image of the mural in progress, though he clarified that the garage door is sealed shut and most likely functions as one of the available rental studio’s walls.

Across the street and diagonal to Pirate’s Gowanus recording studios is Dyke’s Lumber.

It’s worth noting that the mural sits right across from Dykes Lumber Company, though that may be a story for another post.

Rhea Nayyar (she/her) is a New York-based teaching artist who is passionate about elevating minority perspectives within the academic and editorial spheres of the art world. Rhea received her BFA in Visual...