Last summer, in response to the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests that took over New York, stores all across the city boarded up their windows using plywood, effectively skyrocketing the price of the wood.
Founder of arts nonprofit Worthless Studios Neil Hamamoto took the development as an opportunity to actually "protect the plywood," a material that plenty of artists hold dear and have a hard time accessing regularly. The non-profit launched the Plywood Protection Project, "a mission-driven initiative to collect the wood and redistribute it to artists, extending and repurposing the life of this material."
After collecting over 200 boards across the city, the project set up an open call for artists with the goal of selecting five local makers to "participate in a unifying public art project across all five boroughs."
The results of the creative effort are five sculptures now installed across five different city parks, one in each borough. The art works—each one dealing with the events that rocked our past summer and the protests that directly correlate to the used plywood—will be on display through November 1.
Each selected artist has created a sculpture using the repurposed wood and was also endowed with a $500 material budget, a $2,000 artist stipend, tools, studio space, fabrication and installation assistance.
"At its core, the Plywood Protection Project is about New York City and staying here amidst the pandemic—being all in on this city while supporting the artists who've remained here during this tough time," said Hamamoto in an official statement about the endeavor. "I think the project touches on that sentiment materially but also from an art historical standpoint, in thinking about so many great artists who've lived in New York using materials from our streets to create work. In many ways, our project is an ode and a continuation of that rich history."
The featured works include "RockIt Black" in Queensbridge Park (Queens), which seeks to de-stigmatize the concept of Blackness; "Be Heard" by Behin Ha Design Studio in Thomas Paine Park (Manhattan), which celebrates free speech and civic engagement; Tony DiBernando's interactive "Open House," on display at the Alice Austen House Side Lawn (Staten Island) and exalting the value of New York City performance artists; "In Honor of Black Lives Matter," a series of interactive portraits and silhouettes of the 2020 protests by KaN+Mardok at Poe Park (Bronx); and Michael Zelehoski's "Miguelito" plywood obelisks, which take up residence at McCarren Park (Brooklyn) and symbolize the power of politics and protest.
Check out images of the works right here: