An easel at Astor Place today looked like a kindergartener’s class project—but what was the name Vermin Supreme doing on the canvas?
Near the piles of paint tubes and brushes was a sign urging passersby to “paint me!” Behind the easel sat Bethany Halbreich, a NYU Gallatin graduate, watching over the latest installment of her Paint the World project.
“I thought today would be an interesting day to come out, particularly because it’s Election Day,” Halbreich said. “Paint the World is all about providing a means for walk-by artistic expression, a means for voices to be heard and the story of the collective unconscious to be told.”
Halbreich started the project at Burning Man about 14 months ago. “I thought it would be cool to set up a big, blank canvas and replace it every 24 hours with paint supplies and just see what people did,” she said.
After the surprising results of that experiment, she decided to replicate it in New York City communities that lacked arts programming. The goal is to increase cross-cultural understanding through artistic storytelling. “You can actually understand a community through its street art,” she said.
If Halbreich’s canvases are windows into the community, then it’s safe to say that members of the Astor Place community share in the general anxiety that has shrouded the election season. “Move to Canada” was written in the middle of the canvas, with the word “Help” scrawled beside it. Some doodles were pro-Hillary (like the phrases “I’m With Her” and “Nasty Woman”), while most were anti-Trump sentiments (“Love Trumps Hate,” “Dump Trump,” and “Drumpf,” to name a few).
And yes, the bearded, boot-headed write-in candidate Vermin Supreme got a shoutout. Maybe his chances are better than we think?
“I wish we had the capacity to set up all over the city, near polling locations, outside of well-known city landmarks, but that will all come very soon,” Halbreich adds. “This is just the beginning.”