Missed Paradise: Street Art Gets Buffed as Billboard Rises on Prince Street
Those anti-looting plywood barriers are coming down as stores are finally reopening. For street artists, though, it’s a mad scramble to reclaim the work they created to beautify the blight.
Many artists continue to petition management of buildings, store owners, or simply salvaging them from the trash. Others are still producing work on the storefronts that remain shuttered. This, despite the risk of loss.
One of these groups is the SoHo Renaissance Factory, a collective of local creatives comprised of Konstance Patton (Kon-Artist Studio), Trevor Coop, Brendan T. McNally, Amir Diop, Kota, and Sule.
On Friday night, the rag-tag street art crew was joined by actress Dascha Polanco (Orange is the New Black) to paint the entire encasement at the former Miss Paradis restaurant at Mulberry and Prince Streets. But by early Saturday morning, the positive visual messages of empowerment were painted black by building management.
Konstance, whose colorful goddess images have been seen from SoHo to Harlem, said that she’s grown accustomed to the risk and ephemeral nature of street art. “I’ve had more than a few pieces stolen,” she tells us. “People are taking the boards but that’s part of the street art experience.” But newcomer Dascha Polanco was heartbroken, Konstance said. The entire collaboration remains undaunted, yet confused, as to the abrupt blackout of the artwork. Especially given the number of other storefronts in the area that have been supportive since the shutdown and the Justice for George Floyd protests began.
It’s possible though, that the newly erected billboard frame atop the one-story building might have something to do with the erasure of public art. The newish advertecture replaces the iconic gold apple that once donned the top of Miss Paradis as a symbol to its healthy food and “paradise theme.” (Although, others did see the big gold apple as a symbol of a decadent city.)
Konstance and the SoHo Renaissance Factory collective believe that their work not only inspires and educates the public but also “beautifies” the neighborhood.
The boarded up shop at Prince and Mulberry – at the edge of SoHo and Little Italy – has indeed been a blight on the neighborhood since the closure of the restaurant. Street art like those created on boarded-up storefronts or commissioned as murals for security gates also work as a deterrent to everyday graffiti tags.
While no commercial billboard has been installed atop 47 Prince, the frame is already considered an eye-sore by local residents. And when a billboard is installed, it will surely block the light and view of the neighboring building.
There’s no definitive word yet as to whether the old Miss Paradis has a new occupant, but the gigantic billboard might be one way to offset expenses. For now, it remains a sure sign of late-capitalism and what is becoming commonly referred to as “luxury blight.”
Konstance and her crew remain undeterred by the loss of their artwork and are spreading the images they created there on social media. In the meantime, the collective has been commissioned to create temproratiy murals in Harlem and are preserving the work they were able to reclaim as a cooperative. Konstance said that the overall outpouring of support has inspired them to continue to spread their visual brand of hope and justice.
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Big piece from last night in the corner of mulberry and prince got buffed by the landlord last night #wack, I guess they don’t like black art. Oh well, we still out here peacefully protesting with our art together, and we love you right @amir.diop99 @sulecantcook @light.noise @brendantmcnally ? . . #BeALover #nyc #harlem #mural #love #community #beautification #ProtestArt