While on sabbatical from the NYC winter in Puerto Rico and working on his latest “Illumignarly” video, NYC skateboarder and Samurai founder Billy Rohan received word that his 100 Gates Program had received a $30,000 grant from the Lower East Side Business Improvement District. A Chinatown resident and active neighborhood advocate, Rohan’s idea was to commission artists to decorate 100 roll-down gates connected to businesses in the LES.
Rohan posted an open call last week on his Instagram account, looking for creatives to decorate the gates and has already received over 170 entries –many from blue chip artists including Curtis Kulig. But the idea to create what Rohan calls an “open air public art gallery” is more than just eye candy.
“It’s less expensive to pay artists to put up murals on these gates, than it is to constantly pay to remove graffiti that’s just going to go back up,” he said. “It just makes more sense financially to do a project like this. It will bring more people to different parts of this area to see the work on these metal canvases.”
Along with Kulig, the 100 Gates Project will include Harif Guzman, Victor Ving, Royce Bannon, and several other artists known for their work with graffiti, but Rohan doesn’t see this as a graffiti or street art project at all. He’s passionate about drawing people to the neighborhood where Basquiat crafted his early works, calling it “the nucleus of art, music, and fringe living in NYC.” While it’s art on the city streets, it’s not street art or even graffiti. “Graffiti is art without permission — you’re not getting consent,” he said. “With this project we’re working with artists that may be viewed as graffiti artists, but we have the approval to do these murals.”
Back in Chinatown and waiting for the temperatures to warm so the project can begin, Rohan’s hopeful that “100 Gates” is just an example of the idea’s potential. He mentions it expanding to other areas of the city and is hopeful that the works will have the respect of other artists and avoid catching stray tags or other unwanted additions. “It’s a great way to access public art,” he said. “It’s like the Faberge ‘Big Egg Hunt,’ but with roll gates.”