Public art gets more interactive as bicyclists hit the streets, distributing rolls of free art to brighten people's days.
In September, PaperGirl-New York kicked off its inaugural event, distributing over 300 pieces of art freely across Albany and New York City. The project, which originally got started in Berlin, and has percolated across the US and world, distributes free art to the public like old school paper boys distributed newspapers. FatCap caught up with Sina, the NY edition's organizer, to get the details on what goes into planning an interactive art event like PaperGirl and how you can get involved next year or organize one in your own city.
Where are you from and what is your background with PaperGirl, and interactive, street art projects?
I currently live in Berlin, Germany, but lived for many years before that in Albany, NY with my family. I came across PaperGirl on the Wooster Collective site in 2009, and I was studying in Albany at the time. I wanted an interesting project to do because I wasn't satisfied with what the city was offering me at the time. I hadn't really done street art projects before then, but I was always interested in them because of their ability to interact with people outside of galleries. I photograph, but it doesn't appeal to me to hang my art on the wall, in a frame, with a price tag. PaperGirl appealed to me because it didn't ask for anything in return, but it was hugely interactive.
What goes into planning an event like PaperGirl-NY? Can you talk about it from beginning to end - collecting the artwork, exhibiting it, putting together volunteers?
There is a lot of preplanning that goes into this project. It is a lot of hard work, and it only goes well when there is a well functioning group behind the project. It takes a lot of time that not a lot of people were willing to dedicate to this project. We hope that we'll find more dedicated people for next year. Pre-planning includes finding a gallery, getting the word out about your project (blogs, newspapers, constant website updates), finding sponsors, etc. Once the art starts to come in, everything needs to be maticulously organized (there are always emails missing or the wrong name taken as an artist name or there are 2 piles from the same artist), and one piece from each artist needs to be photographed and put online. Fliers also need to be made and updated regularly and passed out. During this, every night is spent online trying to contact more blogs and news outlets to make sure people sent in work, and then also to come to the shows. If there isn't a well-founctioning group, every task needs to be deligated by one person.
This year PaperGirl-NY showed in 3 galleries, so all of the art that was being stored in Albany had to be driven down to NYC, put up and taken down twice, and then brought back to Albany for the last show here. For the shows we had many lovely people help up put up and take down the show. The first show was a solo show and up for 2 days. We had one day to move it to the next location where it was up for 3 days. Then we took down all of the art and brought it up to Albany for 4 days, and then a couple days later we rolled the art into 313 rolls.
The rides need to be planned before hand. The distribution happens in the city where the show happens, so this is the only PaperGirl who does 2 cities. 100 rolls were distributed in Albany and 213 in New York City. This is the best part of the project. This year the project was delayed in both cities (once for media leak of the event happening, and once for rain), but the days on which they did happen were perfect. Wonderful people show up to help with the project. After all of that is done, photos need to be put on the web, thank you notes need to be sent out, and emails need to be answered. Then after a very short break we start on next year (i.e. grants).
Have you done a PaperGirl in other cities, and how did the one in NY differ from those other experiences?
The first PaperGirl I did was in Albany, and this summer I was a an organizer of PaperGirl-Berlin (the original version) before coming back to The States for PaperGirl-NY 2010 between NYC and Albany. It is really hard to compare cities. Every city has people who are really excited to get rolls, and every city has people who don't want any association with your roll or your project. In Albany it is probably the most unusual to see a large group of bikers and the slowest paced city. In Albany we would often stop and explain the project. In New York City everyone is on the go. In NYC they are also the most suspicious of free things. I'm not sure if this is true, but I think the city who was most willing to take the rolls was Berlin.
What has been the after effects of PaperGirl-NY? Are there requests to do it again, or any loud criticisms of the execution? Please explain!
There is a huge cry of praise, and there are many artists who have been a part of this project who want to become a bigger part of it for next year. A lot of the feedback has been positive, and many people tell me that they can't wait for next year.
There are also those who respond to the project as if there is nothing interesting about it, that it is on par with handing out fliers. Some people remind us that this was already done in the 60s which isn't the point if it was done before or not, but it is anyway different because of the gallery element of how we do this. Each artist has the chance to be recognized in a gallery before someone gets to keep their art.
PaperGirl-NY is always looking for volunteers with innovative ideas to improve the project, as well as artists to submit work. PaperGirl projects are well underway in San Francisco, Portland, North Hampton (Mass.) and Charlotte. As for Sina, she's working hard to put together a film on the project back in Berlin.