UPDATE: BSA exclusive new footage courtesy of video artist Chris Jordan plus new images from Jaime Leo, Eszter Klajman and Chris Jordan.
New York’s skies got majorly tagged today. And Mitt Romney got called out in front of 8 million people as a #GOPFail
New Yorkers who looked up from stoop sales, soccer games, and strolls across the Brooklyn Bridge saw graffiti artist and fine artist Saber flying five planes in formation across sunny Sunday skies with messages castigating the presidential candidate for his plans to kill funding for cornerstone arts programs like the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Public Radio (NPR), the Public Broadcasting System (PBS).
“#DefendtheArts” was sky written by artist Saber over lower Manhattan at 2 pm today. NYC 2012 (photo © Jaime Rojo)
As the planes spelled out #DefendTheArts over Manhattan, Saber explained to BSA in a phone interview, “Basically I’m calling out Mitt and any other politicians who are cutting arts funding because they are actually cutting jobs that are an engine to our economy. Not to mention the effect these programs have on creativity and inspiration.” One dot-matrix style message said “Protect NPR PBS NEA from cuts” while another offered the Twitter hashtag simply entitled “#MittRomneyHatesArt”.
“Protect” – which was followed by words like “actors, writers, poets, designers..” The ARTS. NYC 2012 (photo © Jaime Rojo)
As one of a handful of high profile graffiti/street artists in the US who have taken the national stage with their social and political commentary, Saber has “gone big” before, but never on this scale and never over New York City in an hour and a half display that he estimated could be seen over a 20 mile radius. “NYC is the art center of the world,” Saber says, “It is quite a good feeling to be able to spread this public message.”
BSA Exclusive Raw footage by Video Artist Chris Jordan shows artist Saber spraying the sky over Manhattan (VIDEO)
The extremely wealthy Republican candidate Romney told Fortune last month that in addition to scrapping the new national health program that is offering medical care to millions, he intends to cut funding to major arts programs if he is elected, saying of the arts programs, “I very much appreciate and like what they do in many cases, but I just think they have to stand on their own.”
Rather than relying simply on the generosity of patronage, Saber thinks that the government and society at large benefit from investing in artists in an increasingly “creative economy” – many of whom he called out in the sky today, including artists, writers, poets, designers, actors.
Saber. Protect The ARTS. NYC 2012 (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Taking his campaign to social media with the #DefendTheArts hashtag this time, Saber very visibly entered the national fray during the healthcare reform debate of 2009, saying that the existing for-profit system cut out people like himself, uninsurable because of his epilepsy. Today grassroots activism that emanated from downtown NYC has expanded the conversation and he acknowledges those voices who have focused attention on Romney and the so-called 1%. “We’re making sure to fly directly over Zucotti Park with a big ‘Occupy Wall Street’ message, because that’s what New York is too.”
Amid the political messages skywritten by Saber are shout outs to friends and graffiti artists who have passed; a nod to the roll-call community memorial walls that graffiti and street artists have done in cities for decades. This new way of “getting up” also has Saber waxing poetic as he sees the effect his fresh tags have at 34,000 feet as they melt into the blue canvas over most of NYC. “It’s almost like I’m painting in the sky – it has a really beautiful effect when a fresh one lays over the one that is fading away.”
As the planes made long oval trips over Manhattan, the East River, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and back, the normally tough stuff graff guy couldn’t really mask his enthusiasm, “I’m really excited about it!”
Telling you to Tweet “@Saber” from his #defendthearts campaign over NYC 2012 (photo © Steven P. Harrington)
“Actors Poets”, Saber in the sky over NYC 2012 NYC 2012 (photo © Jaime Rojo)
“Poets Patrons”, Saber in the sky over NYC 2012 NYC 2012 (photo © Jaime Rojo)
“Poets”, Saber in the sky over NYC 2012 NYC 2012 (photo © Jamie Leo)
“Artists”, Saber in the sky over NYC 2012 NYC 2012 (photo © Eszter Klajman)
“#OccupyWallStreet”, Saber in the sky directly over Wall Street and Zucotti Park. 2012 NYC 2012 (photo © Jaime Rojo)
“#OccupyWallStreet”, Saber in the sky directly over Wall Street and Zucotti Park. 2012 NYC 2012 (photo © Chris Jordan)
“Artists Designers”, Saber in the sky over NYC 2012 (photo © Jaime Rojo)
“Protect NPR PBS NEA” (upside down from here), Saber in the sky over NYC 2012 (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Saber included shout outs to #graffiti, #streetart, and some graffiti artists and crews- here is one photo made from two cell phone photos (photo © Steven P. Harrington)
While he was 34,000 feet up over NYC, Saber had to do a few shout-outs to friends back home in LA; AWR and MSK, and even a misspelling of artist RETNA’s name. Other tributes included New York street artist Keith Haring (photo © Steven P. Harrington)
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