Street art occupies an often controversial space in a city changing as rapidly as NYC. But Wayne Rada proved that street art both had a place in Lower Manhattan and could boost the community surrounding it in 2012, when his nonprofit The L.I.S.A. Project painted murals along Little Italy’s Mulberry Street to revitalize the area after Hurricane Sandy.
This week, Rada expands his vision to a whole new neighborhood and a four-day celebration of street art. Stretching from 23rd Street to the South Street Seaport, The LoMan Art Festival will debut 21 permanent large-scale murals by local and international artists, including NYC’s Hanksy and Ron English, France’s Ludo and Solus from Ireland.
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“With all the cool galleries, music and comedy venues, it just made sense,” Rada says of focusing on Lower Manhattan.
He calls the process “a very tough one” that involved more than 10 months of discussions. But the end result is a program that goes beyond just adding artwork to the streets. There will be talks, film screenings, a sculpture garden featuring the bust of Edward Snowden that caused controversy earlier this year, and a sticker party where you can design your own decal.
But the main event comes Saturday evening, when two teams of artists will create competing 25-foot-tall murals in 90 minutes, with the winner determined by the audience.
There is no specific theme to the fest, which was intentional. “We leave the creative process to the artists,” says Rada. “It's better if they're excited to paint what they want.”
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Rada says it’s no harder to make the city a canvas now than before, but that rising interest in it can only benefit the scene. “Talent will almost always reveal itself in new and exciting ways,” he says.
The LoMan Art Festival