Just over a year ago, the city was on Pause, commercial activity completely stalled, when artists from all parts of New York turned the plywoods protecting storefronts—particularly those in Soho, East Village and Lower East Side—into outdoor art galleries.
Paying homage to that burst of inspired energies, last weekend’s Be a Lover Fest brought together dozens of artists to once again make art on the street, their inventive processes available for all to behold.
Canvases, boards, paper, plywood or brick walls turned in an explosion of color, shapes, and rhythms by art makers. Returning artists from last year’s artistic bloom, their friends, and other creatives made public art in public.
Konartstudio, art maker Konstance Patton and SRF— the artists’ collaborative Soho Renaissance Factory curated and pulled the multi-venue Be a Lover Fest together.
Konstance’s “Be A Lover” is an artistic concept/moniker she’s been using for years, hence the festival’s name. This former Detroiter artist wants to concentrate on positivity and its value for change. Her “Goddezzes”, spiritual murals evocative of the women who have inspired her, dot the neighborhood’s public artscape.
Some of the Fest’s venues, once again becoming outdoor artist studios, included the brick entranceway to NoMo Hotel Soho on Crosby, Stanley’s Pharmacy on Ludlow, and the cyclone fence in the middle of Elizabeth Street, paralleling Elizabeth Street Garden.
Works by SRF artists can also be seen on walls and pillars in NoMo’s lobby where these art makers have an artist residency and new public artworks by SRF and collaborators can be spotted on other streets on the LES.
Last summer from June on, photographer Kurt Boone scouted streets below 14th and documented the fresh art pieces. On Elizabeth Street, Boone displayed and quickly sold-out his book Fresh PlywoodNYC, Artists Rise Up in the Age of Black Lives Matter.
This massive tome of hundreds of the finished works of art that appeared on plywood-covered storefronts provides an important record of this public art movement. His book, posters and other mini-photobooks are available at KurtBooneBooks.com.
Additionally and as a wrap up to the festival, closed-to-traffic Elizabeth Street allowed for a grill to serve up hamburgers, while a band entertained garden goers picnicking on the grass inside Elizabeth Street Garden.
The post-looting (attributed to outside instigators) summer of 2020 saw the sidewalks of Lower Manhattan—Soho, Noho, Lower East Side and surrounding environs come alive with the creative juices once the signatures of these neighborhoods. Friendships of artists and collaborations formed during that time.
A stretch on lower Mercer, Grand and Howard Streets (among others) continued to offer plywood canvases weeks after other Soho stores reopened and protectors removed. From many weeks of working doorway to doorway or alongside storefronts a group of artists came together as Soho Renaissance Factory.
SRF art makers as well as other public space artists will be featured in the latest issue (“Politics”) of Up magazine that will have a release party on July 31, at One Art Space in Tribeca from 4pm on. Works by some of the featured artists will be exhibited.
Photos by Tequila Minsky