(New York) In New York, artists have taken over empty windows and the premises of stores that have had to close due to the pandemic, a way for them to gain visibility while revitalizing abandoned shopping streets.
Posted on November 29, 2020 at 9:17 a.m.
“Sometimes it is said that tragedy gives birth to an opportunity,” explains designer Sir Shadow, who currently creates his works in a former furniture store in Manhattan.
The septuagenarian is helped by the Chashama association, which for 25 years has persuaded owners to temporarily offer their vacant premises to artists in difficulty so that they can use it as a studio and exhibition space.
The closure of thousands of businesses and restaurants this year due to the virus, combined with the difficulty owners have in renting these vacant places, allowed the organization to broaden its scope of action.
Chashama, which already has 150 studios, plans to occupy 100 new spaces by next year.
“There are more places available and many more places that people are ready to give us at the moment”, confirms to AFP Anita Durst, founder and artistic director of the association.
Artists take possession of the space for free and benefit from 100% of the proceeds from the sales, a godsend in a city like New York where commercial space rents are exorbitant and where galleries usually take a commission.
The owners also gain by the change in this device which sees the artists leaving the premises once the space has been rented.
“We make the place beautiful. We’re here to open the doors to real estate agents. In a sense, we are trying to help rent the space, ”says Mme Durst.
A similar initiative has seen the light of day in the upscale Upper West Side, where the facades of the Columbus Avenue commercial strip now display the work of local artists.
Oil paintings, acrylic canvases and photographs adorn store windows alongside “Commercial Space Available” signs as part of the Art on the Ave exhibition, which ends on January 31.
The idea germinated in June in the heads of three teachers, including Barbara Anderson, who could not stand the sad sight of shops closing one after the other as the pandemic engulfed New York.
“I said to myself that we should be able to do something better, something more dynamic,” told AFP Mme Anderson, who resides in this neighborhood.
“I hope this will bring customers to the area and help retailers who are having a hard time paying rent,” she adds.
Lance Johnson is one of 40 artists featured in the exhibition.
Passers-by stop to take a picture of his brightly colored canvas We the People, estimated at $ 3,500, and press their noses against the glass to read the instructions that accompany it.
“Instead of brown paper lining the windows you see exceptional art. It cheers you up, ”says Johnson.
For the 45-year-old painter, this is all the more important as it is a question of fighting against the idea that “New York is dead”.
“This is not true. We are still there, we are fighting and it is important to let people know, ”he adds.
For Sir Shadow, who illegally hung his paintings on the gates of public gardens before joining Chashama’s program, this type of initiative will bring lasting visibility to artists.
“Once people get used to seeing these occupied spaces, understand the interest and see the beauty of it, you can’t go back,” he says.