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James & Karla Murray’s Homage to Shuttered “Mom-and-Pop” Stores Coming to Seward Park

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James and Karla Murray Rendering

The Lower East Side-based photographers, James & Karla Murray, are bringing a new installation to Seward Park this coming summer as part of a citywide public art program. It’s a structure paying homage to four mom-and-pop businesses that have vanished from the neighborhood.

The project is part of the Art in the Parks UNIQLO Park Expressions Grant Program. The Japanese clothing company provided $200,000 for the two-year initiative in NYC parks that have “historically lacked cultural programming.” In the first round last year, artist Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong installed a sculpture consisting of interlocking wooden modules in front of Seward Park Library.

Karla and James Murray are best known for their book, Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York (2008), and other photo books capturing the fading independent businesses throughout New York City.  Last year, they led a special workshop series that empowered participants to document treasured local stores. There was a gallery show in the fall that featured the finished documentary projects. Among them was the dearly departed lunch counter, Cup & Saucer, which is part of the new Seward Park installation.

According to the description posted by the Parks Department, “Karla and James Murray’s wood-framed sculpture consists of near life-size photographs of four mom-and-pop neighborhood stores of the Lower East Side, which are no longer in business and have disappeared from the streetscape. Images of a bodega, a coffee shop/luncheonette, a vintage store, and a newsstand recognize the unique and irreplaceable contribution made to New York by small, often family-owned businesses.

The exact placement of the sculpture within Seward Park has not yet been worked out; the image posted above is a conceptual rendering only.

The installation is one of 10 new projects to be installed in city parks in June.

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