In a new project, female and non-binary artists have created murals to enliven construction boards in New York City

Construction work in New York City is practically a proverb theres always loud drilling and banging on a set of scaffolding somewhere.

But while New Yorkers might see the green-painted plywood construction slabs practically everywhere the city has over 300 miles of street-level construction one initiative is hoping to beautify the blahs and paint them red, yellow, blue and greens with the help of some local artists, for a new project called City Canvas.

Strangely, it isnt on canvas, but wood. This first project that kickstarts the series features murals from seven New York women and non-binary artists outside of the Google office in Chelsea, where theyve painted on murals that stretch across 8th to 9th Avenue on West 16th Street.

Its powered by ArtBridge, a public art non-profit, who have teamed up with the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, the mayors office and Google to bring what ArtBridges director Stephen Pierson says, is an initiative to promote early and mid-career artists, but especially those whose backgrounds and narratives have traditionally been disempowered or marginalized.

He adds: We aim to not merely beautify the city but empower local artists to be community-builders.

City Canvas. Photograph: Matthew Lapiska

The current project will be up until the winter, but other similar projects will pop up over the next two years, not only on wood, but construction sheds and fences across the city, too.

The main goal was to use construction boards across the city as a space where artists and their Instagram handles can snag the attentions of passersby looking up (instead of gazing down at their smartphones).

Why not use it as a canvas for talented artists? asked Brad Holyman, New York state senator, at the impromptu press conference held in a basketball court. Its for anyone who can look up and see these amazing artists and their work.

That artwork, across the streets from the basketball court on West 16th Street, includes portraits by Jess X Snow, who writes: Our queer joy breaks borders and binaries, adding that I uplift the legacy of queer non-binary and transgender folks of color that call New York City our home.

There are also artworks by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, whose stunning portraits of black women have been called Stop Telling Women to Smile, while Natasha Platt has painted a series of flowers, brightening up the street.

Gera Lozano, whose street artist name is GeraLuz, has used a repetitive abstract pattern that ties into what she calls going from the Amazon jungle to the concrete jungle.

In my artwork, I feel like an agent of mother Earth, she says. She speaks through climate change and hurricanes, but she also speaks through me.

ArtBridge hopes to bring roughly 30 mural projects over the two-year period to all five boroughs. We want to get artists where they can be seen, as well as low income areas that could use beautification, said Pierson. We will use the scaffolding around these buildings to bridge the divide between residents and the surrounding communities.

Photograph: Matthew Lapiska

Google approached ArtBridge to beautify their building, which is under construction, offering a budget of $35,000. According to Pierson, the future projects will be funded by foundation grants, individual donors and corporate sponsors. Many of our exhibitions will derive from partnerships with local, community-based organizations, he said.

One artist on view here, Danielle Mastrion, painted a pair of womens eyes looking down at you. Lack of eye contact in our city is either to avoid conflict with another person or because theyre on their phones and are not paying attention or looking around, she said. This project makes people look up, even for a second.

But with the worlds most notable street artists being white men from Shepard Fairey to Banksy, KAWS and JR its about time for women to be recognized for their contribution, as well.

Street art is very male driven, but the more women are painting, the more it will inspire other women to paint, said Mastrion. I hope that in five or 10 years from now, were not just women street artists, were just artists.

This project could be an important step towards that. There needs to be more projects like this, where women are put to the forefront, as its not just a mural project with just one token woman artist, she said. That happens all the time.



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