As an artists’ space in a cultural district of New York City, FabNYC is invested in its aesthetic surroundings. So when a construction project started up across the street and three big storage containers owned by the builder landed right outside Fab’s front door, something had to be done.
"They were going to be on our block for a really long time," says Tamara Greenfield, executive director at FabNYC. So rather than try to ignore the eyesore, Fab worked with a city liaison to see if the builders would be willing to allow some street artists to use the containers as canvases for murals. "They basically said, ‘We’re open to it as long as it’s not rainbows or flowers,’" says Greenfield.
The builders reserved the right to paint over any mural they didn’t like, but Greenfield says the resulting paintings have gotten very positive responses from all corners—including respect from those who might otherwise leave their own mark on the space. "Some of the benefits to using street artists are that they’re fast and they already have a relationship with people on the street," she says. "These haven’t been tagged."
Each mural only took about a week, but getting to the point of being ready to paint wasn’t quite as smooth a process. Before beginning work, each artist had to sign a liability waiver that required the use of their real names, rather than what they’re known by on the street. To avoid having their real names leak, the builders were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements to protect the artists’ true identities.
All in all, the project has been a big success, says Greenfield: The streetscape is improved, the artists have a venue to display their work, and the builders have been able to build a very positive relationship with the community. Besides, she adds, "Who knows? Maybe their containers will be worth a lot of money someday."
Claire Easley is a senior editor at Builder.