Public Art in the Lower East Side
The Lower East Side Business Improvement District in lower Manhattan set a goal in the summer of 2014 to create murals on 100 storefronts with ugly metal security gates. The project matched street artists with Lower East Side retailers who wanted to jazz up their storefronts with some hip street art.
Artist and skater Billy Rohan came up with the original idea and brought it to Natalie Raben, director of marketing for The Lower East Side Improvement District. They applied for a grant from the city to cover the cost of materials and pay the artists. The project has just been completed. 100 ugly metal storefront covers have been transformed into works of art.
While a few of the mural storefronts have been “tagged” by graffiti after they were completed, the idea of using sanctioned graffiti to prevent unsanctioned graffiti has worked. The artists of the few storefronts who were tagged quickly fixed the damage. I inadvertently drove past some of the storefronts while the project was in progress and had no idea what it was, but I loved every one that I saw. When you combine the works of 100 artists, the result is an amazing diversity of beautiful and awesome works of art. Each mural is unique, some are clever, some are amusing and the range of styles is amazing.
There have already been beneficial results from the project. Even while the project was still incomplete, the organizers noticed that more tourists were coming to the neighborhood to see the art, some of the artists were receiving commissions for other art projects, and the neighborhood began to look better and better.
The Lower East Side Business Improvement District feels they have created a tool kit for other neighborhoods to consider the same idea. They have been contacted by similar organizations hoping to reproduce the same art installation projects both in New York City and elsewhere.
The organizers celebrated the completion of the 100th gate with an art walk in mid-September. For your own walking tour click here and you will see a detailed map of all the gates like the one below. Pix of map
To watch a slide show of all the murals including some before and after pictures click here and scroll down.