Pink Protest Signage Screams Poor Taste at the Museum of Ice Cream
When New York City begins its reopening on Monday, SoHo will be boarded up as if for a hurricane, and the streets emptier than when the COVID-19 shutdown began. Signage of the luxury retailers has also been erased by the appearance of bare plywood, Black Lives Matter graffiti, or both.
But the Museum of Ice Cream at 558 Broadway appears to have taken a scoop out of the Ben & Jerry’s socially-conscious playbook. The experiential SoHo museum painted pink their anti-looting plywood to match the cast-iron exterior, and hand-lettered a message in solidarity with the Justice for George Floyd protestors.
On Tuesday, Ben & Jerry’s released a blog-post titled, “We Must Dismantle White Supremacy.” But, as of yet, has not released a new flavor in honor of the Justice for George Floyd movement like its popular “Justice ReMixed” limited flavor which raised awareness and funds for prison reform.
An African American woman who passed the sign while still in progress, stopped to take photos, thanked the two young woman for the sign, and even suggested another name to add, which it appears was.
“It’s a little much,” said one local, female resident, who didn’t want to be named. “I’d take out the I Scream For,” she added.
Other pedestrians lingered, read the sign, and also took pictures. But as we soon learned, few had made the connection between the pun to the establishment, the sign or the 1927 song “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice scream,” which is about college cheer and Eskimos.
A young female photographer, who passed by while snapping shots of SoHo, said she thought someone unaffiliated with the business had painted it. Yet didn’t realize the message matches the aesthetics of the Ice Cream Museum’s brand.
Another African American woman driving by with her young daughter, pulled over excited to take pictures. Initially thrilled, Sharon Courtney, a Westchester school teacher, was not immediately aware that the signage was part of the Museum of Ice Cream’s branding, and like many others, assumed someone had painted it on their own initiative. Nevertheless, she thought the message could still be inspiring to people, and that there would be different ways of looking at it.
It’s worth noting that the Museum of Ice Cream went unscathed after last Sunday’s looting of SoHo, where next door neighbor, ALDO, a shoe store, was one of the first to be vandalized as protestors marched up Broadway from City Hall to Union Square.
The SoHo Broadway Initiative, a Business Improvement organization that cleans the streets and lobbies for both mega-retailers and small business, coordinated murals for the plywood on storefronts along the Broadway commercial corridor. The result may have prevented looting, but it failed to dissuade protestors from scrawling tags like FTP, BLM, or ACAB (All Cops Are Bastards).
Meanwhile, the decorated plywood fences covering 5th Avenue retailers received some criticism on social media for misappropriating New York City street art, which is steeped in the history of urban blight. Lambasted as artwashing by neighborhood activists, the signage which seeks to evoke New York pride is to others a sign of gentrification.
But so far, most luxury brands deeper into SoHo haven’t decorated their boarded up storefronts. How exactly brand-name stores react to post-pandemic city or the Justice for George Floyd protestors remains to be seen.
Including Tiffany & Co. on Greene Street, which hasn’t daubed its plywood in the trademark hue.
Despite the original intention, whether this “solidarity signage” is a success largely depends on its reception in social media. Attempts to pander to protestors could backfire and the more Instagrammable the message, the more chance it has of diluting the meaning of the movement.
On a related note, here is Tom Waits, John Lurie, and Roberto Benigni screaming for ice scream…