As New York enters Phase 2 of reopening following COVID-19 closures, retail stores will once again begin opening their doors. Throughout Manhattan, retailers boarded up their storefronts in an effort to ward off vandals and looters.
While there’s something so ugly about plywood-covered windows, New York’s creative community over the past two months have found a way to turn lemons into lemonade by covering the boards with art.
Daphnee Chapoteau has been documenting the efforts of creatives, who have turned SoHo ‘s sidewalks into a living and breathing street art gallery. Captured earlier this week, the art reflects the ongoing fight for justice in the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many more at the hands of the police.
Given the neighborhood’s history, the street art covering boarded up buildings is more than apropos. During the United State’s colonial period, the land that makes up SoHo was part of a grant of farmland given to freed slaves of the Dutch West Indies Company, and the site of the first free Black settlement on Manhattan island.
In the mid 19th century, the area was developed by commercial and residential realtors and became known as a center for shopping and theater. The side streets attracted multiple brothels, which ultimately spurred residents to leave the neighborhood. Following the Civil War and the Panic of 1873, large manufacturers began to move into the area, especially textile firms,
During the ’60s, as factory owners began to move their operations to lower-cost locations in the south, artists including Chuck Close, Nam Jun Paik, Richard Serra and Donald Judd were drawn in by the abandoned spaces offering spacious, window-filled buildings for little or low rents.
In the years to follow, those same pioneers have fought a series of battles with the City over SoHo zoning laws as well as rents with mixed success.
While SoHo still exudes plenty of creative energy, in 2020 it’s mainly known as a place to shop and eat. However momentarily, it’s a joyful sight to see the City’s creative pay homage to SoHo’s black and artistic roots.
Check out some of the transformed store fronts below. All photos by Daphnee Chapoteau for Snobette.