When the city was shutting down at the height of the pandemic in March, storefronts around SoHo began emptying out their spaces and/or putting their wares behind plywood. Then came the protests against racist police brutality at the end of May, and the concurrent glass-breaking and looting sprees that occurred early on, which forced businesses in several neighborhoods around the city to board up if they hadn't already.
Of course, all that raw plywood makes for an inviting canvas, and today the streets of SoHo and Nolita are lined with all manner of rogue graffiti and sanctioned art — step back and you'll see a collage capturing the moment, with pieces alternating between the pandemic and the protests. There's even a mural reflecting the incident in Central Park, where a white woman, Amy Cooper, called the cops on a black birdwatcher, Christian Cooper.
While some are clearly unsanctioned, there are also a few murals by long-established street artists, like the portrait of George Floyd on Houston near Bowery by Fumero.
Some pieces are commissioned by the individual businesses showing their support for the protests, while other stores are simply pleading not to get burglarized again. And there are still a number of Covid-related works up around the area, most prominently the series of oversized headshots of New York's essential workers courtesy of JR's long-running Inside Out Project.
There's also a coordinated art project in the works, with dozens of individual pieces on a wide range of subjects and varying degrees of expertise clustered around Greene and Broome Streets. The project is the brainchild of Tristan Reginato, a lifelong SoHo local whose dad has lived here since 1966, and Miriam Novalle, the founder of T Salon and neighborhood resident since 1972. Also involved in the effort is Bethany Halbreich and her nonprofit organization, Paint the World.
Working with the SoHo Alliance and with help from a $5,000 donation from Blick Art Materials, Reginato and Novalle will be here all week with what the latter called "artists from around the world" covering every panel of wood in the area. The primary message is "to end systemic racism," said Reginato, but also "anything that evokes happiness, peace, and good vibes is encouraged."