We've heard it so many times—"New York is dead"—a phrase initially penned by some guy in Florida named James Altucher and repeated by non-New Yorkers.
The sentiment that our beautiful city is dead and no longer holds anything of value has been rejected over and over again by locals (including Jerry Seinfeld), but one group of artists is taking it one step further. The Locker Room, a female-owned Brooklyn-based creative house, plastered billboards in Los Angeles and Miami (where many in NYC fled to) with a reinterpretation of the phrase: "New York is dead. Don't come back."
The statement mocks the idea that the city is dead but is mostly a love letter to all those who have stayed behind in NYC, according to The Locker Room founder Samara Bliss and her partner on the project, Graham Fortgang. The two of them worked with artists Julian Kahlon, Adam Shwartz, Dada Shikako on the "New York is Dead" project.
But the final leg of the campaign starts in NYC this week with posters on the street across Brooklyn and downtown Manhattan as well as subway posters in the Second Avenue/Bowery F train subway station that say: "There's no Broadway, but there are plenty of characters;" "Moving to L.A. isn't going to solve your problems;" "It's just you and me here now;" and "New York's Not Dead. It's just underground."
"The first ['New York is dead'] provocative statement with a wink and a nod, but now it's for all New Yorkers," Fortgang said. "These are romantic sayings that are encouraging everyone to see the bright side and celebrate all who are still here and getting stronger."
"Since the beginning of the project, we've been using 'double down club' to describe the artists and hustlers still in New York who are here to rebuild," Bliss added. "Obviously, the city has changed a lot as a result of the pandemic, in a lot of ways for the worse—clearly parts of the great exodus have been really hard on the city—and some parts of it feel like we've been waiting for this moment for a long time."
The partners, who opened their gallery in the middle of the pandemic in August, want to be a part of fostering the arts in NYC right now when hardship and change are challenging the creative community more than ever. They firmly believe there's a "tidal wave" of creativity that is springing from this difficult period in NYC and they want to support it.
Fortgang is an entrepreneur who started Matcha Bar with his brother as well as Our House, a streaming channel for creatives during the pandemic. Bliss has been an event producer for the past five years and designer working in art spaces across the city.
Their posters in NYC are just a lead up to a bigger initiative at The Locker Room called "Lockdown at the Locker Room" happening all February. Ten artists—New York-based fine painters (like Jasper Socia), musicians, photographers, a poet, a collage artist, and a filmmaker—will be "locked in" with nightly dinners and all their needed supplies to create artworks together. At the end of the month, it'll culminate with a gallery show-experience that they hope to open in March and take around the country after that. Mara Catalan, who has been photographing Brooklyn since the '90s, will be documenting the program with photography and Duefunk (Willli Dufault and Niko Koloseus) will produce a compilation album featuring the artists in the residency program.
"We're super excited about this new wave of creativity and about any small part we can play in ushering it in, championing for it and building a stage for artists we believe in," Bliss said.
You can check out more from The Locker Room here.
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