Why is New York asking artists to decorate city garbage trucks for free?

The New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) is seeking proposals from artists to decorate its 46,000-pound waste collection vehicles. But the artists whose designs were selected won’t be paid, which raises questions about whether the open city invitation is underestimating the value of art.

DSNY is restarting this public art project, Art Trucks, for a second time, and will be accepting expressions of interest from artists through September 18. Cover the empty 400-square-foot “panels” with pictures of sanitation workers, recyclers, and flowers. Nearly 100 artists applied, and Sanitation Commissioner Catherine Garcia was at the time Call The designs are “really… works of art”.

DSNY will franchise proposals focused on the more than 7,000 sanitation workers who keep New York and hygiene items clean. Participating artists will be provided with supplies and a workspace to age their designs, and will only have three or seven hours working days, sometime in late September and early October, to decorate their entire group’s car, including the three sides visible from a truck. They will be encouraged to reduce waste by using and discarding recycled paints. The design will remain on the truck as long as it remains in the car. The trucks are expected to hit the road by October, and DSNY hopes to represent artists from every region.

But DSNY’s search for volunteer artists to design their trucks has drawn criticism. Fiscal year 2022 income At $1.9 billion, it currently ranks as the largest sanitation division in the world. Andre CharlesA New York City-born graffiti artist who grew up in New York City posted a graphic Monday emblazoned with the slogan “Artists should get paid like everyone else.”

“Artists today are paying high rents, trying to survive, and living off what they do,” Charles said in an interview with Hyperallergic. “People who have received all this sponsorship and donations, they know that artists are suffering, but they know that artists are often not educated enough, that they are trying to promote themselves and be famous and popular, and that they will not take the time to read the finer details.”

In this case, the fine print is that the artists will not receive any compensation, and that they will grant both DSNY and the partner organization The Sanitation Foundation the “non-exclusive, non-exclusive right to use and/or reproduce the designs for non-commercial and/or educational purposes.” Charles said that after publishing his Instagram post, he heard several artists who thanked him for sharing the information and did not discover the specifics of the RFP.

It was Charles sonic defender For graffiti artists who are paid their fair due; It has been an old fact that brands are marketing their business for free without even acknowledging it. “Most of these artists do not own the copyright to their work,” he said. “So when people photograph it or use it for whatever they want to use it for – a shirt or for commercial use – the same artist who created it doesn’t get paid.”

But Charles is comforted by the generational shift in attitudes about the importance of paying artists, and says, “We’re in a new generation — we’re in a new time zone.”

In an email to Hyperallergic, a DSNY spokesperson called Art Trucks a “fun, non-commercial, community-based project,” adding that the artists retain all rights to their work, although they won’t get paid. “We are excited to be working with local artists who want to help add some flair to our neighborhoods,” the spokesperson added.

Editor’s note, 8/31/2022, 11:45 a.m.This article has been updated with a comment from the New York City Department of Sanitation.

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