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Archie Grocery storefront
Photograph: courtesy of Snoeman

NYC’s Snoeman is brightening the city one storefront at a time

The artist spray paints local bodegas from top to bottom.

Written by
Natalie Melendez

If you’ve spent any amount of time in Upper Manhattan, chances are you’ve seen a mysterious figure spray painting local storefronts in brightly colored hues.

Snoeman, a beloved NYC-based graffiti artist, likes to keep a low profile. On the streets, it’s unlikely you’ll recognize him without a spray can in his hands and a protective mask over his face. Online, you'll find nothing more than a partly-covered profile. But the same can’t be said for Snoeman’s work—a bold, unique style that is instantly recognizable from miles away.

Since the start of the pandemic, Snoeman has been at work beautifying bodega exteriors in Washington Heights and beyond. The artist’s use of vivid color and thick lines, most times paired with uplifting messages and signature figures, has helped local businesses gain attention while livening up surrounding neighborhoods.

Painted storefront exterior in Inwood
Photograph: courtesy of Snoeman
Storefront mural in Inwood
Photograph: courtesy of Snoeman

“I’ve always been inspired by bodegas and other storefronts,” Snoeman says in an email to Time Out New York. “They are beloved institutions of New York. They serve as a gathering place for the community, each with their own energy and personality.”

Bodegas serve as both an inspiration and the perfect canvas for the artist’s personal work, which began with hand-painted posters with phrases like “spread love” and “do the right thing” in 2020. He says the storefronts appeal to him, in particular, because they're overloaded with signage, lights and color. Now, the artist paints entire exteriors, “using every available surface from the sidewalk to the awnings, to the door and window frames, and even the inside.”

Perhaps the most striking example of Snoeman’s work is at Dyckman Convenience on the corner of Dyckman Street and Nagle Avenue in Inwood. The bodega is decked out in an orange, yellow and red palette with splashes of blue, depicting a classic summer heatwave. Snoeman painted from the ceiling of the awning all the way down to the sidewalk floor, leaving no area uncovered. The same is true for the artist’s most recent work at Archie Grocery on 163rd Street, which features bright linework and a yellow-orange base. 

Painted storefront in Washington Heights
Photograph: courtesy of Snoeman

Snoeman’s massive storefront murals may have only appeared in recent years, but the artist has been working for a long time. “I’ve been an artist since I was a young kid and started using spray paint 23 years ago,” he says. “I’ve always had art-related jobs and gigs since I was a teenager. I was eventually able to transition to doing my own art full-time.”

The artist’s work and expertise includes anything from murals, commercial collaborations, prints and merchandise. But he always comes back to spray paint—the medium he feels most comfortable using and what he based his style around.

“Bold lines, simple lettering, bright colors and patterns really stand out and people notice them—and that’s the goal,” says Snoeman about his graffiti-inspired art. “I like making work that everyone can relate to. I do a lot of simple, funky imagery—palm trees, beach scenes with shells and starfish, flowers, dancing characters, bags of money and stacks of treasure, the melting snowman with a NY hat.”

Fire station mural on 161st Street
Photograph: courtesy of Snoeman

The New York pride and positivity that radiates from Snoeman’s work has made it a key part of Upper Manhattan. The storefronts and murals are admired by passersby and residents alike, creating a common ground for all. It’s the reason why the artist continues to paint his community with love and why, in recent years, he has taken his work to neighboring boroughs, including Coney Island, East New York, the South Bronx and more. 

At the end of the day, Snoeman just wants “to make people happy, spread positive energy, help keep special pieces of New York culture and tradition alive and inspire others to do the same.”

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