IT TAKES A VILLAGE: More than 150 artists are expected to pick up their paintbrushes in SoHo on Saturday to create 250 murals on boarded-up stores.
The homegrown project Art2 [Heart] Project has spread by word-of-mouth and has already resulted in about 250 murals on the plywood-covered shops. The artistic endeavor started on June 8, following the vandalism that occurred in the neighborhood on May 31 and June 1.
Artist and filmmaker Maxi Cohen, one of the group’s organizers, said, “With most of SoHo looted and almost every store boarded up with plywood, if there ever was a moment for artists to express themselves, it is now. It reminded me of SoHo in the Seventies, when the neighborhood was dark and there was no commerce. It was the artists who lived in SoHo who transformed the neighborhood that then gave rise to what now has been destroyed.”
Instead of teeming with weekend shoppers en route to stores — which remain closed until Monday due to the lockdown — the neighborhood is trying to reel in pedestrians with street art. Art enthusiasts, city officials, business alliances and community groups in Indianapolis, Chicago, Omaha and numerous other U.S. cities are also using murals on still-closed stores as downtown attractions.
For the Art2 [Heart] Project, Paul Deo, C. Finley, UNLOK artist Gordon Kindlon, Nobuho Nagasawa, Jean Seidman and the “Guerrilla Girls” are some of the hundreds of artists involved. There are also unknown ones spanning from elementary school-age children to senior citizens. What is expected to be at least a seven-hour effort Saturday will start with participants gathering in a circle at 8 a.m. for a meditation/reflection at the corner of Spring and Greene Streets. Then the creatives will be able to paint where they want and what they want, according to Cohen, who has handled the advance work of getting permission from retailers and area associations.
“We have infused the concept of painting from the heart as a call for unity, and people paint as they will,” said Cohen, who put the plan in motion with artist Bobbi Van, T Salon founder Miriam Novalle and Stephanie Frank.
Many of the existing works address critical issues such as police brutality and COVID-19, as well as highlighting Black Lives Matter and calling for social change. Artists are asked to bring paint, buckets, paintbrushes, folding tables, chairs, rollers, ladders and other necessities to share with others.
With major museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art closed to the public this summer, SoHo’s unofficial open-air art museum will remain on view until the stores get ready to open and remove the plywood. The existing murals can be found along Grand, Broome and Wooster, as well as parts of Greene and Spring Streets. Art2 [Heart] SoHo is calling on artists to relay optimism, healing and love to the world by painting messages of unity and compassion on the boarded-up storefronts.
When more of the area retailers reopen and the art must be taken down, the plan is to save the art, show it and then auction it for charities and the artists. Cohen has already found a place to store the art.