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A New Project Repurposes the Plywood of Boarded Up Storefronts

Plywood Protection Project by worthless studios awards materials and grants to five artists in order to transform boarded up storefronts into public art installations

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Courtesy worthless studios

Over the past year, New York’s streetscapes have been taken over by plywood. In the summer, retailers, restaurants, and luxury brands quickly boarded up windows in order to protect storefronts as protests raged against police brutality. This past week, the ubiquitous building material made an appearance yet again as businesses prepared for unrest in the wake of a contentious election. As the method appears to be becoming the new normal, the city’s plywood supply is dwindling, and in some stores prices for a standard sheet of the material skyrocketed up to $90 a sheet. As a cheap and accessible material that benefits many artists and makers turns into a hot commodity, the Plywood Protection Project, conceived by New York-based nonprofit worthless studios, offers a response. Founded in 2016 by Neil Hamamoto, worthless studios has been on a mission to provide space, resources, and technical assistance to aspiring artists.

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Courtesy worthless studios

After this summer’s protests, as retailers began to “shed their protective layers,” worthless studios began a process of picking up the discarded materials, with the plans of donating them to artists to be repurposed into public installations across the city. Plywood Protection Project put forth an open call for proposals, of which five winners would be awarded studio space, tools, fabrication assistance, a $2,000 stipend, as well as a $500 material budget to complete their projects. The winning proposals serve as an “important reminder that the issues we’re living through don’t disappear once the physical barriers and reminders are taken down,” worthless states in their announcement letter.

Yesterday the jury—Jean Cooney, director of Times Square Arts; the curators of The Noguchi Museum; Elizabeth Masella, senior public art coordinator at NYC Parks; Brian E. Glover, deputy director of grants and programs, Bronx Council on the Arts; Christina Daniels, head of residencies and classes, Pioneer Works; and Avinash Rajagopal, editor in chief, Metropolis—announced the winning proposals, which are expected to be on view by Spring 2021.

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