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Artists Find a Symbolic and Unexpected Medium in Plywood

Boarded up store in Soho, Photo by Gretchen Robinette, From

Over the past few months our lives have adjusted to the everyday reality of a global pandemic. New York City has not been the same, just like countless other cities and countries around the world. But what does it mean to be an artist during times of unrest and insecurity? Worthless Studios, a nonprofit based in New York City is tackling some of these questions with “The Plywood Protection Project.”

Boarded up store in Soho, Photo by Gretchen Robinette, From

Worthless Studios gives artists the tools and space to fabricate their art, also producing and specializing in the creation of public art. For their newest open call, they have collected plywood used to board up New York City businesses and are offering it to artists to use in public art projects that will be displayed around the city. Many businesses bought plywood to board up their storefronts during the height of the protests against racial injustice. At one point there was even a shortage and prices went up astronomically. Rather than waste the precious plywood that is being discarded, Worthless Studios is facilitating the transfer of the now meaningful material to artists for repurposing into public art.

Black Lives Matter mural in Union Square by Steve "ESPO," Photo by Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images, From

Plywood has symbolically become an important medium for artists during the time of the pandemic and civil unrest, highlighting the links between Covid-19, economic decline, and racial injustice.The nonprofit Broadway Housing Communities recently commissioned nine artists to create murals for the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling. The Brooklyn Arts Council is sponsoring the similarly named “Plywood Project” which its founder, Eve Moros Ortega hopes will “drive resources to artists and community organizations of color.”

Artist at work at the Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Art & Storytelling, Photo by Michael Palma Mir, From

“The Plywood Protection Project” at Worthless Studios will highlight outdoor sculpture all over the boroughs for a limited time. Materials are some of the highest costs artists incur from their practice, so plywood that may appear to have no purpose or value is quite the opposite. According to Worthless’ statement, “This plywood contains cultural, historical and monetary value that must not go to waste; transforming it into public artwork will honor the movement in ways that our currently standing and recently torn down monuments cannot.” Artists may submit proposals through September 27th, and work will be displayed in the winter and spring of 2021.

Mural "For Gwen" by Sophia Dawson located across the street from Barclays Center, Photo courtesy of The Plywood Project, From

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