NY Post-Painters in Brush With Law
VIA The New York Post
By AMBER SUTHERLAND and LEONARD GREENE
Posted: 4:03 AM, October 26, 2009
Five people were arrested yesterday for defacing billboards in an effort to replace ads with art.
The five were among dozens armed with paint and brushes who spread out over lower Manhattan and whitewashed billboards to "reclaim" public space as part of a protest organized by the Public Ad Campaign.
Three of the artists were charged with criminal mischief and making graffiti. The other two were still being processed last night.
Adda Birnir, 24, and her boyfriend were painting flowers on a whitewashed billboard on Mulberry Street when cops hauled them off.
"They were being completely peaceful," said Birnir's father, Bjorn, 56, who was visiting from California.
About 80 members attacked advertisements throughout Manhattan with white paint and roller brushes, and filled the new blank canvasses with their own creations.
Jordan Seiler, director of the Public Ad Campaign, said his group identified about 5,000 illegal billboards in the city.
"New York is a beautiful, wonderful city," Seiler said "When you fill it with commercial messages, you turn it into a commercial space rather than a public space."
Representatives from National Promotions and Advertising, which posts many of the ads, were monitoring the protest, and, in some cases, called police. A spokesman for the organization could not be reached for comment.
In April, a similar protest resulted in four arrests.
Kaylina Holman, 18, a high-school senior from Brooklyn, managed to paint green and orange abstract shapes on an Eldridge Street billboard without getting arrested.
"I don't think the public needs to constantly have corporate agendas shoved down their throats," Holman said.
Jonathan Askin, a Public Ad Campaign lawyer, said there is a double standard when it comes to billboards and art.
"The city has lost several millions of dollars by not combating unlawfully posted commercial billboards," Askin said. "The enforcement is arbitrary."