Over the last year, metal roll down gates around the Lower East Side have been receiving colorful facelifts thanks to the 100 GATES Project, which has been slowly transforming the neighborhood through a collaborative effort between local businesses and street artists. Now, just as the summer draws to an end, the 100th gate at Katz’s Deli, featuring a cat with bulging eyes, will be completed on Wednesday by artist L’Amour Supreme.
The 100 GATES Project was created by Billy Rohan, a local artist and pro skateboarder, who noticed that the Lower East Side looked like a “ghost town” when stores were closed for the day. At the time, he had been going door to door, encouraging business owners to let him and artist Jessica Blowers paint their security gates with original murals.
Then in the summer of 2014, Rohan connected with Natalie Raben, the Senior Vice President of Partnerships and Public Affairs at the Lower East Side Partnership (LESP), who applied for a Neighborhood Challenge grant, a joint initiative between NYC Department of Small Business Services and NYC Economic Development Corporation. LESP took over the formal operations of the program after receiving $30,000 in grant money, which was distributed evenly to cover the costs of supplies ($300 a gate).
Raben worked on facilitating relationships between business owners and artists to successfully install 75 gates in 2015. In 2016, Tiger Beer provided an additional $20,000 in sponsorship money to help the organization reach its goal of installing its 100th gate. The pieces funded by the contribution all have a small tiger and the hashtag #tigergates incorporated into the murals.
Zest @ 249 Broome Street; artwork by Abigail Kaage
In addition to providing the community with street art, these murals improve the quality of life in the neighborhood and deter vandalism, as taggers are less likely to place graffiti on another artist’s work. Many of the gates also serve a dual purpose by promoting the artists and helping to tell the history of the stores.
In front of Quinn, a men’s and women’s boutique, for example, a portrait of Angelina Jolie as a fashion icon is painted by artist Damien Mitchell. Because the project is community based, none of the artwork features profanity, nudism, or religious and political themes.
Quinn @ 181 Orchard Street; artwork by Damien Mitchell / #TigerGates
XY Atelier @ 81 Hester Street; artwork by Chamberlin Newsome / #TigerGates
Older merchants who took part in the project were also introduced to a new form of branding involving social media to bring foot traffic to their stores. Even after hours, as business owners pull down their security gates for the night, pedestrians take photographs next to the artwork and share them online.
Nick & Son Clothing Co., Inc. is still operating on the Lower East Side during the digital era; artwork by Joshua Gabriel
L’Amour Supreme’s mural spans across four of Katz’s Deli security gates and will be completed on Wednesday during a private event. In celebration of the project’s 100th mural, a press event was held on September 12, 2016 in front of Katz’s. SBS Commissioner Bishop, EDC President Torres-Springer and L’Amour Supreme were present for an interview, which was followed by a short foot tour led by Raben.
L’Amour Supreme (second from left) SBS Commissioner Bishop (third from left), and EDC President Torres-Springer (right)
From Sept. 15th – Sunday, Sept. 18th, the 100 GATES project is inviting people to take a self-guided walking tour of the gates using online maps provided by Foursquare, or printed maps, which can be picked up at these listed locations. Also enjoy Tiger Beer specials all weekend long at participating bars and restaurants.