What the hell just happened? Has it been a year? Or has it been 10 years? Or just one long nightmare/daymare? Or has it been 10 years? Did we already ask that?
In March 2020 we awoke to a world that was transforming before all of our eyes, yet we felt so cut-off from it and each other. The first days seem so long ago as we mark the first anniversary of the pandemic. Still, the initial shock of those days resonates in our chests so strongly that we confidently talk about a collective global trauma that has indelibly marked a generation.
From Stockholm to Mexico City to Barcelona to Bethlehem to New York to LA, BSA brought you street art that was responding with fear, derision, critique, hope, and humor to the never-static, always evolving barrage of Covid news. Stuck inside and afraid to expose ourselves to each other, we New Yorkers became accustomed to experiencing the outdoors only through our windows, connecting with neighbors we’ve never met who were also banging pots and pans or clapping and waving and yelling.
We listened to ambulances screaming past our windows every half hour or so during those first weeks, imagining the torn families, the terrified fellow New Yorkers now being rushed to the hospital and separated from their loved ones without a goodbye, gasping for air. We wondered if we would be next.
When we did go to the streets, they were empty – or nearly. In New York this was unheard of. In this bustling, noisy metropolis, we experienced a daily disconcerting quiet. That is, until the killing of George Floyd by cops finally pushed the anger/anxiety into the streets all summer.
The deadly hotspot of New York quelled, but the fires of Covid spread west, grabbing communities who thought they would avoid impact. At the same time, local, state, and national leaders fumbled and argued or famously callously ignored the desperation of citizens, occasionally admirably filling the shoes they were elected to occupy, often misstepping through no fault of their own.
We have no particular wisdom to offer you today beyond the obvious; this pandemic laid bare inequity, social and racial and class fault-lines, the shredded social net, the effect of institutional negligence, the ravages of 40 years of corporate privatization, and the power of community rising to the occasion to be in service to one another in ways that made us all more than proud.
Here are some of our favorite Covid-themed street art pieces from over the last year, a mere sampling of the artistic responses. Interspersed we paste screenshots of the daily events (via Wikipedia) in 2020 that shaped our lives, and our society.
We mourn the losses of family and friends and the broken hearts and minds in all of our communities. And we still believe in the power of art to heal and the power of love to balance our asymmetries.
As NYC went on complete lock-down and New Yorkers were ordered to remain in their homes in complete isolation the city’s residents organically joined together in a collective 7:00 pm ritual in support to the first responders. To the nurses, doctors, paramedics, trash collectors, public transportation, police, fire fighters, supermarkets workers etc…with their services and sacrifices we, the residents of this megalopolis were able to keep out hopes for brighter days to come.
Video of four former presidents urging people to “roll up your sleeve and do your part” and get the vaccine.
Remember that time when your best friend’s boyfriend was installing a towel rack in the bathroom of their apartment, and he clumsily busted a hole through the wall, revealing a hidden room – which subsequently released a ghost who regularly appeared at the foot of their bed and slammed doors throughout their dwelling? We do. That’s why it was/was not shocking when a New York woman investigated the breeze emanating from her bathroom mirror. She took the mirror off the wall and discovered a portal to a three-room apartment.
Dude, if that happens to us, we’re not putting it on Tik Tok. We’re heading to Bed Bath and Beyond. In a space-starved city, newly discovered square footage is like finding gold bullion or bitcoin between couch cushions.
In other New York news, some street art neighborhoods are devoid of new works these days – perhaps because January and February are a frozen, mischievous purgatory that chases you inside in a normal year – doubly so when you’re on your 37th consecutive month of pajamas, Minecraft, and Chef Boyardee Beefaroni. Have faith; the next tumultuous 8 weeks of winter-spring-winter-spring weather will eventually coax the street artists and graffiti writers outside in a perennial sign of spring like the appearance of a robin on your windowsill.
Despite the paucity of prancing vandals at the moment, our Editor of Photography, Jaime Rojo, still managed to capture new art in the streets this week in Red Hook, Bushwick, Chelsea, and Bushwick – amongst the scores of closed restaurant huts that have besieged sidewalks citywide. Movie theaters will open for 25% capacity now, and perhaps the moribund restaurants will be coming back to life in this city that never quite sleeps.
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Adrian Wilson, Berkit, Binho, Blur, Captain Eyeliner, Colin Capernick, Comik, DYM Crew, Ethan Minsker, Know Your Rights Camp, Locs, Matt Siren, Paolo Tolentino, Sara Lynne Leo, Shark, Taboo, The Monks, and Tony De Pew.