Last summer, as tensions rose over George Floyd’s death by Minneapolis police, New York City shop owners closed their businesses in anticipation of riots or looting.
Now, weeks after former officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of Floyd’s murder, a group of artists have turned the wooden planks used to seal those shops into outdoor art.
The artists were selected from 200 participants to participate in the ‘Plywood Protection Project’, using approximately 200 pieces of plywood sourced from local shops.
Their sculptures address a variety of issues from Black Lives Matter to the return of public performances in the aftermath of COVID-19.
As tensions over police brutality grew in the summer of 2020, many high-end New York businesses closed their storefronts. Now an art nonprofit has turned those plywood shelves into political art
Sponsored by Worthless Studio, the ‘Plywood protection project’ contains five sculptures, each made from dozens of plywood sheets sourced from local businesses.
The combination of pandemic lockdowns and Black Lives Matter protests last June saw businesses all over New York shut down and enter their windows with plywood planks.
“ The communal delay that resulted shifted our focus from all the details of life and helped create a powerful Black Lives Matter movement centered on the continued murder of innocent black lives, ” Worthless Studios said in a statement. statement.
‘In the summer of 2020, we finally left our homes to fight for racial justice while retailers, restaurants and luxury brands boarded their windows.’
The city “felt apocalyptic,” said Worthless founder Neil Hamamoto The Art Newspaper.
Be Heard, Behin Ha Design Studio’s sculpture for the Plywood Protection Project, is a large-scale multiplex megaphone. Plywood panels were applied to create the conical shape of a megaphone
‘The stark contrast between boarded-up buildings and the typical dreamy transparent shop windows was the visual roadblock that started the project.’
Founded in 2016, Worthless Studios is a nonprofit art organization that provides space, materials, resources and technical assistance to aspiring artists to help them create compelling public art.
‘I am an artist myself and I am aware of the artists’ struggle for access to materials. The pandemic has made things worse, ”said Hamamoto Metropolis.
RockIt Black by sculptor Tanda Francis is dedicated to undoing the stigmatization of Blackness by presenting black identities as divine, featuring depictions of the African goddesses Mami Wata and Oshun
‘In addition to the difficulties of paying studio rent and showing work when galleries were closed, the artists had ceased access to materials.’
The project also draws attention to the rising price of plywood: In March 2020, a 4 ‘x 8’ sheet went for about $ 38.
By April 2021, it had skyrocketed to $ 96 per sheet, a 252 percent increase, according to Police Fact, “on one of the most commonly used pieces of common wood for construction.”
“As companies protected their storefronts with plywood due to the pandemic and the protests, crappy studios saw an opportunity to protect the plywood itself,” the studio said.
Hamamoto collected more than 200 plates and made an open call to artists to submit proposals for works, thus ‘extending and reusing the life of this material’.
Selected by a jury of experts from more than 200 applications, five artists were given studio space, tools, fabrication and installation assistance, along with a $ 500 material budget and a $ 2000 grant.
The work of Michael Zelehoski’s plywood protection project, Miguelitos, combines the concept of an obelisk with that of a caltrop, a spiked metal object that protesters throw in the way of approaching police cars
Their pieces, each using between 20 and 70 plywood boards from local businesses, were unveiled last week.
One is stationed in a green space in each neighborhood and will remain on site until November 1.
On display at Thomas Paine Park in Tribeca, Be Heard by Behin Ha Design Studio is a large-scale multiplex megaphone.
The sculpture from Tony DiBernado’s plywood protection project, Open Stage, takes the form of a stage where local theater workers are given the opportunity to perform outdoors – in some cases for the first time in more than a year. “
Plywood panels are arranged to create the conical shape of the megaphone and are assembled to create the structural framework that holds it up.
RockIt Black by sculptor Tanda Francis in Queensbridge Park is dedicated to undoing the stigmatization of Blackness by presenting black identities as divine, depicting the African goddesses Mami Wata and Oshun.
In honor of Black Lives Matter by KaNSiteCurators and Caroline Mardok, in Bronx’s Poe Park, has multiple plywood cutouts from Black Lives Matter protesters.
‘As people walk through the portals, they are swept up in the energy of the 2020 protests: the unified experience of citizens of ethnicities and genders fighting for freedom and justice for black lives,’ the artists explain.
In honor of KaNSiteCurators’ Black Lives Matter and Caroline Mardok, in Bronx’s Poe Park, includes multiple plywood cutouts from Black Lives Matter protesters.
In Brooklyn’s McCarren Park, the work of Michael Zelehoski’s Plywood Protection Project, “Miguelitos,” combines the concept of an obelisk with that of a caltrop, a pointed metal object that protesters throw in the way of approaching police cars.
Zelehoski first encountered caltrops, or ‘Miguelitos’ as they are called in Chile, during protests against Pinochet in the 1980s.
Tony DiBernardo’s Open Stage, seen at the Alice Austen House on Staten Island, takes the form of a stage where local actors have the opportunity to perform outside for the first time in more than a year in some cases.
“I wanted to create a work that could depict and reflect on how this affects theater performers, while also embracing New York and preparing for the future,” said DiBernardo.
Worthless Studios also works with various cultural institutions to complement the exhibition with public programs, including lectures and live performances.