In May, following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the hands of police officers, protests against police brutality spread across the United States. The protests, fueled by outrage at the brutal murder of Floyd, started as a trickle in a few states, but soon spread throughout the entire country.
And while protesters of all ethnicities were risking their lives, liberty, jobs, and health to speak out against the injustice experienced by Floyd and millions of other people of color in the United States, there were, unfortunately, some opportunists who used the moment to loot stores in New York, Los Angeles, and throughout the country.
The combination of an extended pandemic lockdown, which led to empty streets and unattended stores, and the subsequent protests, which in many places still last long into the night, allowed some, mostly unassociated with the protesters, to take advantage of the situation.
Thankfully, the looting only lasted a few days, but the upscale retail stores of the Soho district of New York were left devastated by looters. Although few are happy that the looting occurred, there are others who remember the old Soho, which was a hub of fine art and cutting edge visual talent — not just from famous artists like Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Keith Haring, but new and not-so-famous innovative artists as well.
That’s why when, in the wake of the looting, many Soho stores boarded up their windows to prevent further damage, many artists decided that this was the time to take Soho back, at least for now, and show the world what it has really meant to New York City for so many years.
Before the luxury jewelry shops and fashion brands invaded the area, Soho was an artist mecca for New York City creators and for so many artists around the world. What Soho was in the past hasn’t quite been duplicated in New York City (despite Chelsea’s robust gallery scene). But for now, Soho has returned to its former glory, represented by a gallery of the streets that has emerged organically.
The message of the art is undeniable: it’s about peace, unity, anti-racism, anti-police brutality, and, most importantly, love.
I spent the first part of my career in the music business working and living Soho. Some my greatest memories are from my time living in a tiny space on Greene Street in Soho as I struggled to get my voice heard through various channels in the city’s vast valley of buildings and people.
I love Soho. It’s a part of me. I don’t like what it has become in recent years, but New York City is always about change, and, as a native New Yorker, I’ve come to understand that embracing that change is also a fundamental part of loving my city. This latest change was born from pain, but has given rise to great beauty and expression.
I used Snapchat’s Spectacles camera glasses to capture this newest piece of art history in Soho. This is what it looks like when a city, a country, and an entire planet calls for change using the power of art.
If your art is shown in one of the photos and you didn’t tag your art on the wall/building, feel free to reach out to me and I’ll let the world know who you are by adding your social media contact info.
All photos by Adario Strange