A public art initiative born on the Lower East Side is expanding to two more New York City neighborhoods. The Lower East Side Partnership was recently awarded a grant to take its “100 Gates” program to Staten island and East Harlem.
During the past couple of years, the Partnership transformed the metal roll-down gates of 100 local businesses in this neighborhood. The Department of Small Business Services (SBS) offered financial support for the project, which was the inspiration of LES artist and skateboarder Billy Rohan. Now SBS is providing another $140,000 for 50 gates in downtown Staten Island and another 50 in Harlem.
The other day we stopped by the LES Partnership’s offices to talk with Natalie Raben, 100 Gates’ director, about the expansion.
After the 100th gate was completed at Katz’s Deli last fall, the Partnership was looking for ways to replicate the successful program. Officials with SBS had just launched their new Neighborhood 360 initiative, which is meant to revitalize commercial areas throughout New York in collaboration with local groups. The Lower East Side business improvement organization felt 100 Gates would be a good fit.
The LES Partnership is teamed up with the New Harlem East Merchants Association and Staten Island Arts for the next phase of the program. “Our community partners are really excited to be able to bring this project to their communities,” said Raben. “We’re reaching out to as many arts organizations as we can in each of these neighborhoods,” she added, to find artists with local ties. At least half of the gates will be painted by artists who either live or work in the community.
While the Partnership is coordinating the project, the idea is not to bring the Lower East Side to Staten Island and Harlem. Instead, local stakeholders will mold it to fit their own neighborhoods’ sensibilities. “I think these projects are going to take on the shape and flavor of the new neighborhoods,” said Raben. “I’m excited to encounter and learn about these communities and to allow the project to be a reflection of these communities.”
If you are an artist or small business in East Harlem or downtown Staten Island, click here to become part of the 100 Gates program.
For a sampling of 100 gates on the LES, see below: