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Soho’s boarded-up windows and doors now host a wide range of varied artworks. While combing the streets this past Monday, I came upon works by several artists new to me, as well as by those familiar to all of us street art aficionados. The image featured above is the work of Brooklyn-based Dena Paige-Fischer. A small sampling of more images that have transformed the blocks in the vicinity of Grand and Mercer Streets into an open-air museum follow:

Miami-native, NYC-based SacSix

NYC-based multidisciplinary artist Jo Shane at work posting political texts

Some musings from an anonymous source

Brooklyn-based Kamila Zmrzla-Otcasek, to the left of Mia and Adrien Otcasek

NYC-based artist and animator  Sara Lynne Leo

 Brooklyn-based Denis Ouch

The prolific Optimo NYC

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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Since George Floyd, an unarmed 46-year-old black man, was murdered in broad daylight on May 26 by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, protests have risen up throughout the world. Here in NYC, our streets have teemed with images and signs, along with daily peaceful and powerful protests in all five boroughs. The image featured above in memory of George Floyd was fashioned by Sara Erenthal in her Prospect Lefferts Garden neighborhood. Several more images recently seen on NYC streets follow:

 Lmnopi, Black Lives Matter, on the Lower East Side

An unidentified school-age child getting the message out with chalk at Riverside Park on the Upper West Side

LinkNYC for #BlackOutTuesday on the Upper West Side

Stickers posted near Gracie Mansion on the Upper East Side

Sign fashioned by West Coast — based Kate DeCiccio, seen on First Avenue in the East Village 

Protestors in Union Square Park demand that “our lives be free of police violence”

And “Justice for Floyd” — in procession walking north from Washington Square Park

Photo credits: 1 Sara Erenthal; 2, 6-9 Ana Candelaria and 3-5 Lois Stavsky

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On my first day in more than two months out of Manhattan, I was delighted to visit Underhill Walls in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Curated and managed by Jeff Beler — with safe guidelines practicing social distance —  it is NYC’s first community-based street art project to emerge as the city begins to take steps to open. The image featured above was fashioned by the wonderfully talented Subway Doodle. Several more images I captured yesterday — as the project that began last week continues — follow:

Jason Naylor bringing brightly-hued love

 Zukie’s pepperoni pizza comes to life!

Visual artists and poets Android Oi and My Life in Yellow collaborate

Visual artist and producer Megan Watters at work to the left of  Paolo Tolentino‘s portrait of the late Shirley Chisholm

Colombian artist Calicho Arevalo‘s gift of love

Muralist and designer Majo B gift of beauty

Multidisciplinary visionary Shamanic artist Myztico Campo posing next to his work in progress

Keep posted to the Street Art NYC Instagram for more images from this ongoing project

Photos by Lois Stavsky — with special thanks to Yonkers-based multidisciplinary artist Michael Cuomo for getting me out of Manhattan!

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Brooklyn-based multidisciplinary artist Sara Erenthal has been busy! Sharing her personal musings on found objects, enhancing windows of local businesses and interacting with passersby, she has been making a huge mark on NYC’s public spaces throughout the pandemic. I recently had the opportunity to pose a few questions to her:

Of all the NYC artists I know who also use the street as a canvas, you may have been the only one out there almost daily at the height of the pandemic. What spurred you to hit the streets at a time when so many folks remained indoors or only went out for essential items?

At the very beginning of the pandemic, I was out only for errands. I wasn’t making any art. I actually isolated myself for about two weeks, as I wasn’t feeling well. But on the first walk I took, after self-isolating, I ran into two little pieces of wood. I couldn’t resist. Why do I do it? I live alone. The only view I have is of my alleyway. I need to get out and stretch my legs. I need to create art for my sanity. The street is a place where I can scream and be heard.

How have folks responded to seeing you out there?

The response has been amazing. People stop me and thank me for creating work. I’ve even been receiving donations, along with all kinds of support. People are so grateful that I am out there creating art in these times.

Do any particularly memorable experiences stand out?

There are many!  Early on, I came across a coffee table near my apartment that had been discarded. I wrote on it, “Hey, neighbor, let’s connect.” A month later, I discovered that a homeless guy who lives near my local train station had adopted this piece. I would love to meet him.  Particularly memorable is the day I sat myself down in Prospect Park with a sign that read: “I live alone. Please talk to me from 6 feet away.” The response I got was incredible. People lined up to speak to me. It was the interaction that I so crave.

You’ve been featured in at least a half dozen publications – from the Gothamist to the Brooklyn Rail – within the past few weeks. Has that publicity impacted your career as an artist?

It has. But equally, as people see my work on the streets and on Instagram, my audience expands. It’s a mix of both.

Both pieces that you did in my Upper West Side neighborhood — one on a discarded mirror and the other one, an ad-takeover on a phone both — disappeared within two days. How does that make you feel?

I was not surprised that the mirror was taken. I’d rather it land in someone’s house than in a landfill. But I was disappointed that my piece was stolen from the phone booth. Someone obviously broke into it. I went out of my way to bring art into a neighborhood that misses it. I wanted it to stay for other people to see it. Whoever took it was not considerate.

Yes! I miss seeing it on my daily strolls. Hopefully, you can return to Manhattan sometime soon. And thank you for bringing art into the lives of so many during this surreal time.

Interview conducted and and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits: 1 Lois Stavsky; 2, 3, 5 & 6 Sara Erenthal, and 4 Meremundo

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The following post is by Street Art NYC contributor Ana Candelaria

I fell in love with Phoebe New York the moment I saw her on the streets of my city, and I’ve since become obsessed with her!  I love everything about her – from her trendy, doll-like figure and her gorgeous outfits to her empowering messages. Recently, I had the honor to speak to her creator, Libby Schoettle.

Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

I was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania and raised on a nearby farm. My father was working as an English teacher at the Church Farm School, a boys’ boarding school. And so that’s where I grew up.  I was always surrounded by nature. It was amazing… and totally the opposite of New York City!

Do any childhood memories stand out –- particularly those that inform your art?

I remember setting up easels with my brother in our backyard. And my grandfather, an artist who had studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, would teach us how to look at something and draw it. I wasn’t particularly good, but I loved the feeling of being outside with markers, easels, pens and colors. My loneliness, along with any sadness that I may have felt at the time, would go away when I had paper and pen in my hand.

My grandfather also took us to his studio on occasion. It was a very special place to him.  I still remember the smell and the room. It was very spiritual. I remember thinking, “I could see myself doing this.” I don’t know if I would have the same connection to art if it weren’t for him.

Are there any particular themes in your art that can be traced back to your childhood?

Yes, I was a fearful child. I was petrified of Philadelphia, and I would do anything to avoid going to a city. It’s ironic how I ended up in New York City! Messages in my work like “Fear Nothing” and “Never Quit” stem from my childhood emotions.

At what point did you break through your fear? 

It happened gradually between elementary school and high school. I was constantly bullied in elementary school. It was traumatic. I was afraid of everybody. But I had so much to say, and I began telling myself, “I can get through this. It isn’t forever.” And I remember suddenly becoming outgoing!

And when I moved to New York City, I immediately connected with the city. I fell in love with it! It was the relationship I’d been looking for my whole life. I’d lived in a couple of other places, but I’d always felt depressed — and couldn’t figure out why. New York City changed my life. I started to study acting after college, where I’d majored in film production. I wanted to confront my fears through acting. I didn’t really want to become an actress, but that helped me a lot — as did waitressing! I constantly challenged myself.

Did you ever study art in a formal setting? 

No. I studied film production and fashion in college. I started doing art on my own. I never thought about it. Had I studied art formally, I don’t think any of this would have happened!

What inspired you to create Phoebe? And when was she born?

It took years for Phoebe to evolve. It started in 2001 from a photograph I took while I was in Paris. I don’t know exactly when Phoebe was born, but I do remember how her profile came about. I had a square from a pink record album, and I drew a line for a mouth and an eye on the side. It was subtle, but I saw a face. I thought, “OMG, I could use this instead of making Americana-inspired heads.” I was immersed and obsessed with Phoebe’s side profile for years, and I drew hundreds of them. I placed her on top of line drawings and cut clothing out to dress her. She didn’t have a full face until 2016. Watching her over the years is like watching your child grow.

I had no idea what I was doing, but it feels like it’s what I was supposed to be doing. I think that’s what art is. You can’t really make sense of it; you just trust it.

Once Phoebe changed from side to full profile, she became more expressive. Was that your intent?

Yes, it was a major shift in my work. With her full face, I was able to communicate many more emotions and messages. I don’t do her side profile anymore. Rarely do you see it. I now put different colors on top of her eyes and vary the colors of her hair. I’ve become far more experimental. Phoebe has become so much more to me than I could’ve ever imagined.

Have you ever been told that your character resembles you?

Yes, all the time! It’s so funny. It even happens at the post office when I’m delivering packages. I put stickers on the packages that people order and the postal workers say “OMG is that you?” She’s the exact definition of an alter ego. I think that if I had set out with an intention to make one, it never would have happened!

Can you tell us something about your creative process? What is it like?

My process is full-time because I’m constantly looking for inspiration. I’m either at my desk or looking through magazines for things to cut out. The first thing I do in the morning is write. I then walk over to my desk which is my happiest place in the world. Sometimes my creation comes together in seconds, and sometimes it doesn’t. It can get frustrating at times because I can be there for hours and nothing happens. I’ve learned — as a writer and an artist  — that you have to put yourself there. You have to show up at your desk and go through the pain to get the good stuff. It’s not going to just happen magically. I dedicate 100% of my time to Phoebe. Sometimes it’s haunting! I could be half asleep at 4:00 am, and I would say, “I have to do this now.”

Are there any particular artists who inspire you?  Any favorite artists?

When I firstI created Phoebe, people would compare her to other artists’ works. They would say things like “Oh, you must’ve studied this artist,” or “Surely you’ve been inspired by that artist.” And I would say, “No. I’ve  never seen that artist’s work.” Phoebe truly came out of my head.

There are a few artists, though, whose art inspires me personally. Photographers, in particular,  inspire me. Among my favorite images are Cindy Sherman’s older works from the 1970’s. Francesca Woodman is, also, one of my favorites. In addition to producing self-portraits, Francesca did a lot of journaling.  I’m into reading artists’ journals. I’m interested in their thoughts and how they lived. I also love Tracey Emin, Edvard Munch, Keith Haring, Basquiat and Andy Warhol. And the poet Sylvia Plath is a favorite.

Are there any particularly memorable moments that stand out since the birth of Phoebe?

Maybe the fact that she is here. The memory of bringing her into my life and being able to share her with other people. Getting her out on the streets was particularly special. My first solo show is also distinctly memorable.  It was held in 2007 at an Upper East Side gallery, but it was mostly family and friends who attended. Even though it was an amazing experience, I was disappointed that not enough strangers had popped in to check out the work. I still didn’t know back then if a stranger could understand or relate to my work. I didn’t get a sense of what anybody thought about my artwork until I started to put it out on the street. Then I started to receive messages from people across the world who understand and appreciate it. 

Of all the Phoebe’s that you’ve created, have you a favorite one? 

I have so many from different time periods! There is one I made in 2008 that I will never forget. It’s one that I don’t think I could ever part with. It’s very special because I was in love with this person, and it was the first piece of art that made me realize that I could communicate an exact feeling. Phoebe was sitting on steps looking down with a heart tucked under her arm. It somehow helped me get over that person, as it was something I did for myself and something I could show others.  

Is there anyone — in particular — with whom you’d like to collaborate?

I don’t really think about collaborations too much. The collaboration that I did with Victoria Beckham was amazing. It felt organic. The characters really spoke to each other. That’s what I look for in a collaboration. Does it make sense in terms of a relationship with Phoebe? I would experiment and try to collaborate again, but it has to be with the right person — someone who is in line with my audience and with me. 

Phoebe has also surfaced in recent gallery settings. What has that experience been like? 

It’s exciting! It’s a dream to be able to share with others my original art — what I create on paper behind the scenes. It’s so nice to have people come together to celebrate hard work and dedication. That is what art is all about!  I love communicating both on and off the streets. Anything on the streets may suddenly vanish, but work shown indoors continues to live.

What’s ahead?

I just presented the Off The Walls Bon Voyage installation show with Wallplay Network at the South Street Seaport. This was to be followed by my first solo museum show in Copenhagen, Denmark. I had been working on it for the past year, and it was scheduled to open on May 16th. As it was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is now scheduled to open in the fall. All of my original work since 2001 has already been shipped, and I am very excited to be showing in a museum.

There is also a documentary in the works, in which the director, Jyll Johnstone of Canobie Films, animates Phoebe. She has been working on the film for five years —  following me around everywhere I go and documenting just about everything I do. She is hoping to have the first segment of the series — one of five — completed later this year or in early 2021. 

That’s very exciting. Can you tell us a bit more about the upcoming film?

Yes. It explores my life as an artist. The film begins before I had a presence on the streets. I wasn’t a street artist at the time. I was a writer and a collage artist. I didn’t have a cell phone or instagram. It’s amazing how everything has since evolved organically — including this documentation! The film will offer viewers insights into my many different sides.

I’m certainly looking forward to it. Have you anything else in the works?

Yes! I am also working on a book of my collages now.

How exciting! Good luck with it all! And thank you for inspiring me in so many ways.

Interview conducted by Ana Candelaria and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photos: Ana Candelaria 

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Located on Atlantic Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn, the Atlantic Terminal Mall hosts an impressive array of department stores and specialty shops. Generally bustling, the mall, like every other shopping center in NYC, has been dormant for the past several weeks.

But last week, Brooklyn-based artist Jason Naylor, known for his buoyant, brightly-hued murals, brought his distinct aesthetic sensibility to the Atlantic Terminal Mall.  Nestled between Marshalls and Old Navy, Naylor‘s recent mural is a boldly spirited ode to the “Heroes of this World.” It is dedicated — in gratitude — to the essential workforce, the true heroes who give us “HOPE.”

A spokesperson for Atlantic Terminal explains, “We felt we needed to find a way to give back to our community. In Brooklyn, art is an important fabric of who we are, and we wanted to add to it.”

Jason Naylor created the mural– that stands 20 feet wide and 24 feet tall — in partnership with Atlantic Terminal.

All photos courtesy of Atlantic Terminal

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On March 26, 2020 the #ArtClinicNYC opened its front window on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Eager to find out more about this essential art resource, I posed several questions to SacSix, the artist who had conceived and launched it.

What is the mission of the Art Clinic? What motivated you to launch it?

At the beginning of the global quarantine — as businesses, schools and restaurants were required to shut down — I began to think about what makes something “essential.” Liquor stores, gun shops, marijuana dispensaries and even golf courses in some states are deemed “essential.” But what about art resources for kids? Art is essential to life. We need art to survive. And the Art Clinic’s mission is to provide necessary materials to kids to create art. The Art Clinic provides FREE coloring packs and crayons to each family member.

How were you able to access the storefront? 

The storefront is actually my studio. I gained access to it in mid-January.

It’s great that you had the space. And what about some of the challenges in seeing this project through?

The initial challenge was finding a place to print 1000 pages. All of the local print shops were closed. Through a connection at the Cheese Grille, I found a printer in Queens that was still open.

How did you source the materials — from crayons to coloring pages?

Over 75 global artists contributed to the project. I first started reaching out to my NYC street artist friends for the coloring page designs. Then I began expanding my network to artists throughout the country. After seeing my posts on Instagram in reference to this project, many more artists reached out, eager to be part of it.

And what about the crayons?

I personally funded the 500 packs of crayons and the cost of printing. Six-page packs are taped to the front window of the #ArtClinicNYC. Instructions prompt passersby to just pull the items off the window.

How has the response been to your venture?

The response has been great. I see it in people’s smiles — people of every age, sex and race. That’s why I do it. I try to snag photos of people, from the inside, as they pull off the coloring packs and crayons. Their smiles and excitement are so genuine.

Congratulations on this venture! It is wonderful!

Featured pages:

Image 2: Fumero, JPO, Con$umr, Pure Genius, Chris RWK, BK Foxx, Savior ElmundoSacSix, Crash, Al Diaz and Sandra Chevrier

Image 3: RX Skulls

Image 4: Danielle Mastrion

Image 5: Dirt Cobain

Image 6: Dr Scott

Photo credits: 1, 3, 5, 7 & 8 Ana Candelaria; 2, 4 & 6 courtesy SacSix 

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COVID-19, the global pandemic that has impacted so many of our lives, has prompted responses from visual artists — both on the streets and in their personal spaces. The image pictured above was painted by the Italian artist, Alessio-B. Several more images — stirred by the current crisis — follow:

Toulouse-based sculptor James Colomina in Switzerland

Multi-disciplinary artist Sara Erenthal — from her Brooklyn apartment

Tag Street Art in Tel Aviv

Philadelphia-based Sean Lugo

Switzerland-based duo Bane and Pest on canvas

Argentina-based Nazza Stencil Art, Portrait of  “the fight against Coronavirus,”  based on photo by Milan-based photographer Flavio Lo Scalzo

All images courtesy of the artists

Keep posted to Street Art NYC  for Part IV of COVID-19-related images — including several by local artists and news of some of the ventures they have launched.

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With his extraordinary passion for art and his penchant for sharing it with others, Nic 707 touched so many of us. Beginning in 2013, I accompanied Nic several times a year — often along with other artists and photographers — on his subway train interventions, as he transformed dull, ad-saturated subway cars into vibrant moving canvases. Nic 707 was as eager to showcase other artists’ work — from old school writers to contemporary creatives — as he was to share his own, and he always had a “new” artist to introduce me to.

Each trip with Nic was a distinct adventure. And I was waiting for the current crisis to end, so that we could hit the trains — where I would, once again, serve in my dual role as look-out and documentarian. Sadly, that won’t happen, as Nic passed away last Sunday, April 12 — a victim of the cruel Coronavirus.

The image pictured above features Nic 707 and the legendary Taki 183 — whose tag Nic brought back to the trains — outside Taki 183′s Yonkers workplace. What follows are several photos of Nic 707 and his artworks riding the trains:

Nic 707 eagerly waits for the train to arrive

Nic 707′s iconic character, Kilroy

Kilroy in love

Kilroy as spaceman

Nic 707 schooling a subway rider on the history of subway graffiti

Two Upper East Side ladies on the 6 train discussing Nic 707‘s abstract art with him

Keep posted to the StreetArtNYC Instagram feed for images of works by other artists who participated in Nic‘s InstaFame Phantom Art project.  You can check out the interview I conducted with Nic 707 back in 2013 here.  And you can read David Gonzalez‘s obituary of Nic (Fernando Miteff ) in The New York Times here.

R.I.P. Nic 707. We will miss you.

Photos of images by Lois Stavsky

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Named for the historical Downtown Newark district in which the mural project is located, the Four Corners Public Arts initiative has brought over a dozen alluring murals to Treat Place and Beaver Street in Downtown Newark — a short work from Newark Penn Station. Referencing the neighborhood and its distinct history, the artworks were conceived and painted largely by local artists.

The mural featured above, a tribute to the late neighborhood legend, Jerry Gant a.k.a 2 Nasty Nas, was painted by Newark-native Manuel Acevedo. Several more murals sponsored by  Four Corners Public Arts — an ongoing collaboration between the City via Invest Newark, the Newark Downtown District (NDD), Newark Arts and local property owners RBH Group and Paramount Assets — follow:

Newark-raised, Brooklyn-based Gera Luz, Sacred Water

Layqa Nuna Yawar and Kelley Prevard in collaboration with A Womb of Violet — a Newark-based Black women’s artist collective –, “Magnitude and Bond”

The Rorshach Art Collective — Newark natives Andre Leon and Robert Ramone, –“Radiance”

Brooklyn-based Armisey Smith, “The Natural World of the Lenape,” to the left of Puerto Rico-born, Paterson-raised  Jo-el Lopez, “The Guardian of the City”

Atlantic City-based Sue Daly in collaboration with The Barat Foundation, “Sewing a Path to Freedom

Newark-based Gabe Ribeiro, “Newark Is for Artists”

Photo credits: 1, 2, 5 & 7 Rachel Fawn Phillips; 3, 4 & 6 Lois Stavsky

Special thanks to Rachel Fawn Phillips for introducing me to this project.

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