Current artists: Amon Azizov, Wei Chen, Qiao Fu, Gao Min, Guo Kun Sheug, Artashes Karslian, Ji Yin Jin, Li Qun, Lin Ruo, Dean Lu, Ren Jien-Guo, Jorge Rivera, Sharif Sadiq, Peter Walsh, Xiang Yue Chuan, Dario Zapata, Zhuang Xuemin

Organized by Peter Walsh, Ongoing.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Breaking News: Appellate Judge Issues Interim Stay Blocking Enforcement of New Park Rules; Artists to Work Through the Holiday Season

In a dramatic turnaround, just one day after a New York State Supreme Court judge ended a Temporary Restraining Order and denied a motion for a Preliminary Injunction blocking the enforcement of new NYC Parks Department Rules, Justice Peter Tom of the Appellate Division, First Department, issued a new Interim Stay that will effectively allow artists to continue working in four key New York City parks through the holiday season. The decision came late yesterday evening, December 16, 2010, after arguments on an emergency motion filed by the artists’ attorneys, Phillips Nizer LLP.

Reached today by phone, attorney Jeffrey L. Shore, litigation counsel with the Phillips Nizer team, stated that the interim stay will be in effect at least through January 7th. Whether that stay is continued past that date will depend on Justice Tom’s full decision on the motion to block enforcement of the new park rules till the appeal of trial court’s December 15, 2010 denial of a preliminary injunction is settled, possibly sometime later in January. A Phillips Nizer press release dated today, December 17th, states that they believe that there are “at least six legal errors” in that decision.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Judge Denies Preliminary Injunction; New Park Rules To Be Enforced for Now

Judge Milton A. Tingling, Jr. of the New York State Supreme Court has ruled against a Preliminary Injunction in the Dua et al v. NYC Parks Department case. The judge also vacated the temporary restraining order against the city issued on August 25, 2010, almost four months ago. That means that the Parks Department's new rules dramatically restricting the ability of artists to work in four New York City Parks (Central Park, Union Square Park, Battery Park and the High Line) will go back in effect.

Although the ruling is clearly not a good sign for the artist plaintiffs, the judge, writing in an eleven page decision, did indicate areas still open to argument as the case moves forward. He called the City's assertions that the rules were created to prevent congestion and address issues of park aesthetics "somewhat specious" and stated that there was "insufficient evidence adduced at this time to confirm or deny" the artist plaintiffs' claim that congestion and aesthetics are "merely pretextual." The case will continue in February as will two other cases filed by artists in Federal court.

Robert Lederman, president of the street artists organization A.R.T.I.S.T., has provided the following link to the compete text of Judge Tingling's ruling:\ cision-Denynig-Preliminary-Injunction

More commentary to follow soon.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Edict of 1853

"Clown Playing a Drum"
  Honore Daumier, c. 1865-67
The British Museum, London
“… he met the challenge with a swift and flexible drawing style that could summarize a situation with arresting economy. The soft, greasy lithographic crayon was his ally in this effort; compliant and responsive, ‘it followed [his] thoughts,’ he reportedly said, whereas ‘the lead pencil was stubborn and did not obey’ him.
Théodore de Banville remembered seeing the artist in his studio on the Quai d’Anjou drawing with the ‘débris’ of used crayons, which he repeatedly rotated in order to sharpen them. It was this habit of using broken ends and stumps, de Banville observed, that gave his lines ‘hardiesse.’”
Colta Ives, “Drawing at Liberty: Daumier’s Style,” Daumier Drawings, (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992), p. 8.

     Charcoal on newsprint: these are the preferred materials of the professionals making portraits in New York City’s Central Park. Not just any charcoal but a particular Chinese crayon manufactured in Shanghai. Marked '3-Stars' on the box, each stick is similar in size and form to a Conté crayon but slightly greasier. You can see several, gifted to me by Xiang Yue Chuan, in the photo below, one neatly wrapped in masking tape to keep the fingers clean during a long workday outdoors.

     These coal black sticks give a vivid painterly hue to a drawing, although personally I find them unforgiving. Unlike the hard and dusty German-made Faber-Castell Pitt Charcoal pencils I use which allow me to lift pigment with a kneaded eraser, add highlights or make corrections, the Chinese 3-Stars require the accurate placement of a mark the first time around. Indeed it is these punchy, confident marks that give the best of the Central Park artists’ work, like Daumier’s in the quote above, their “hardiesse” – a boldness of line and form.

     Of course, if you have time on your hands, a twig of willow vine charcoal, a waxier French-made Conté crayon or a round stick of machine-compressed charcoal does allow you to build up a richness of tones which is impossible to get with the brassier Chinese crayons, especially if you are sprinting to complete the likeness of an over-scheduled tourist in a busy park on a blustery Manhattan afternoon.

      The 3-Stars are made for speed. One edge of the tip lays down a clean line, the other a broad stoke of shadow, the crayon’s oiliness giving a fine inkiness to a drawing with no room for erasure. These are still charcoals, though – nowhere near as fatty as Daumier’s litho crayons which bend and melt like chocolate in the hand under the warmth of an artist’s fingertips.

     This is no idle shoptalk. This is political economy focused to a diamond-like perfection: materials plus knowledge plus skill plus labor produces the customer’s image and the artist’s livelihood. The wrong mix of these ingredients and the artist loses the commission.

     There is no coincidence in my choice of Daumier, the paid caricaturist, as a reference point when discussing the work of the artists in Central Park. Daumier, who captured the bustling vibrant public space of nineteenth century Paris streets, exemplifying Baudelaire’s call for artists to abandon the ancients and embrace the modern world, routinely gave image to the barrel-organ grinders, the ‘saltimbanques on the move,’ the itinerant street musicians of that city. 

     Like today’s Central Park portrait artists, those “expressive matter vendors” of the 1850s and 60s were under concerted attack by municipal forces. Indeed, as described by T.J. Clark in his classic study “Absolute Bourgeois: Artists and Politics in France 1848-1851” (London, 1973), the 1852 arrival of Empire in the aftermath of a coup d'etat against the short-lived Second Republic produced an immediate crackdown against street entertainers. "From that moment, the war was on against the saltimbanque. The high point of the campaign came in 1853, when the government drafted a law against the whole profession, and ordered its Prefects to put it in force" (p.121). The Edict of  1853 established Paris’s own licensing scheme to control street artists and performers, driving them from location to location as they attempted to make a living.

     It is this battle over public space by street artists and Daumier’s grappling with understanding the provisional place of artists in modern society that is so ruthlessly conveyed in his drawings and watercolors of that time.
“plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose”
Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, January 1849
(, retrieved December 5, 2010)

Peter Walsh drawing Wei Chen in Central Park, Manhattan, May 17, 2010.
 NOTE: The 3-Star Drawing Charcoal mentioned in this post, and other supplies used by portrait artists in the park, are available at UDAC in Long Island City, Queens at 30-10 41st Avenue, 4th Floor.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Non-Monetary Exchange, Part Two

What about behind the scenes?

How do the documentary photos that you see on this blog get taken? What about the video or the brochure that was created?

Again, barter is the modus operandi when intangibles like art are being created in social spaces that are invisible to cash economies. A good example is the hours of superb digital video that Emmy-award winning filmmakers Kathy Brew and Roberto Guerra shot on the first day of the Portrait Exchange. Although they were incredibly busy, Kathy and Roberto agreed to shoot for a variety of reasons including their own interest in the project and its focus on art-making in an unexpected place, and also, friendship – I’ve known them for years. Still, we also made a deal for a pair of portraits drawn by me, a deal which is as yet unredeemed (One of the intriguing aspects of barter economies is that the barter tends to slow down the pace of economic interactions between individuals, which is generally considered a negative. Yet my debt to Kathy and Roberto has drawn out our exchange to many months, in some ways magnifying our connections by ensuring that I contact them again down the road. This burden to reconnect hangs in the air like a thread between us until the barter is completed. I’m bound to their generosity. Economic exchange of this kind is not like anonymously buying a cup of coffee, or even, quite frankly, like hiring someone to do a one day video shoot.).

In the case of the Central Park Portrait Exchange, another issue of importance is the development of new internet driven barter tools. I’ve relied heavily on an artist/barter website called OurGoods, founded by a group of artists and designers including Jen Abrams, Louise Ma, Carl Tashian, Rich Watts, and Caroline Woolard, describes itself as “a community of cultural producers matching "needs" to offered "haves".” I would describe it as being like a barter Ebay for artists, except that barter economies are fundamentally more complex than cash-driven economies in terms of person-to-person interactions and are more capable of bringing people together in relationships that may play out over years.

By using the OurGoods site I’ve received the photographic skills of four different artists, help on the ground during the portrait exchanges, Mandarin translation services and the design of a brochure to hand out onsite in Central Park! In exchange I’ve provided many bags of organic fruits and vegetables and a variety of as yet unfulfilled promises such as studio visits and grant-writing advice. I find it gratifying that the barter system that OurGoods uses rhymes so well with the goals of the Portrait Exchange.

Still, in the end, my own donated labor is the prime animating force of the project.

Friday, November 12, 2010

How does an art project like the Central Park Portrait Exchange come into being?

Mostly through non-monetary exchange.

What’s that?

Trades, favors, apples for oranges, my labor given for your labor.

For example, each artist – professionals like Wei Chen, Dario Zapata or Artashes Karslian who regularly work in Central Park – has contributed a drawing and sat for another, but no money has changed hands (at least not yet). What do they get out of the deal and what do I, Peter Walsh, as organizer of the Portrait Exchange get out of this “non-monetary exchange”?

Well first, as the project organizer I have temporary physical possession of the drawings, which I hope to be able to exhibit down the road as a group exhibition. Maybe the work will be sold. Or not. At some point, if the drawings are not sold, the physical portrait exchange will be completed. I will receive all the drawings of myself and each artist will receive the portrait that I drew of them.

As the exchange organizer I get the added value of helping to create a group artwork which, outside of its considerable value as a meaningful artwork, has the potential to provide me with other opportunities in the art world and theoretically helps to build my career.

For the artists working in Central Park who have chosen to participate in the exchange, there’s been a savvy calculation that doing so will result in publicity and other intangibles that may help in their fight against New York City’s new rules restricting their ability to work in the park. That gambit has already paid off in articles such as journalist Leslie Koch's article "Artists sue Mayor Bloomberg, NYC Parks Department over new regulations", ongoing blog posts on this site and even in courtroom testimony on their behalf.

On September 13, 2010 I testified in New York State court to the veracity of video footage that I had shot because I’ve been working regularly on the exchange in Central Park. That video, which showed artists being forced by the city to run a footrace every morning in order to work, is part of a body of evidence that has kept in place a Temporary Restraining Order against the city’s new rules – and has given several months’ relief for the artists from the new regulations. How much of that is connected to the portrait exchange is one of those difficult to measure “intangibles,” but the gain is real and has kept work and money coming the artists’ way.

So far, the gamble of participating in the Central Park Portrait Exchange appears to be paying off for everyone.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cold Weather

Cold weather has arrived.

A Temporary Restraining Order is in effect against the City of New York.

The courts are pondering a Preliminary Injunction against the new New York City Park Rules that drastically reduce the ability of many artists to work and show their work in the parks.

Stay tuned for a mid-project evaluation and commentary on the Central Park Portrait Exchange.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hearing on Injunction Against New Park Rules Ends; Justice Tingling to Rule Soon

Artists' lawyer Jon Schuyler Brooks questioning artist Gao Min in court on Monday, September 20, 2010. Sketch: P. Walsh
Two more days of artists’ testimony were heard in New York State Supreme Court Justice Milton A. Tingling, Jr.’s courtroom at 60 Centre Street in Manhattan this week, completing the hearing on a possible Preliminary Injunction against the New York City Parks Department’s new rules restricting artists’ ability to show and sell art in four city parks. Justice Tingling continued the standing Temporary Restraining Order pending his decision and indicated that he will rule on the injunction by next week.
On Monday, September 20, 2010 artists Diane Dua and Gao Min testified. Dua, a plaintiff in the case who has traditionally worked near the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Central Park, showed photographs and stated that she was unable to compete for the reduced number of spaces that the new rules had created. Lines for those spots begin forming in the middle of the night and married couples who work as a team have a distinct advantage. Sheryl Neufeld, an attorney for the New York City Law Department’s Administrative Law Division, asked why Dua didn’t simply move to another location. Dua explained that her loaded pushcart of photographs weighed hundreds of pounds and that it was difficult for her, as a petite woman, to move that cart from location to location, not knowing in advance where a space might be.
Artist Gao Min, speaking with the aid of a Mandarin translator, confirmed that he had shot a series of dramatic videos of the scramble to reserve spaces on Wien Walk. Those video clips were shown to Justice Tingling and the courtroom. Click here to see some of that video. This was the second piece of video evidence depicting about the situation at Wien Walk. Click here to see the first video.
On Wednesday, September 22, 2010, artists Bayo Iribhogbe, Tenzin Wangdu, Miriam West and George Moran also testified for the plaintiffs.
At the end of testimony on Wednesday, Justice Tingling continued the standing Temporary Restraining Order pending his decision and indicated that he will rule on the injunction by next week.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Assistant Commish Linn Grilled on the Stand In Artists' Hearing

New York City Parks Department Assistant Commissioner Jack Linn gave unexpected testimony today in Justice Milton A. Tingling, Jr.’s courtroom while under a vigorous cross-examination by artist plaintiffs’ attorney Jon Schuyler Brooks. That testimony is potentially favorable for the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the revised park rules limiting artists’ ability to display and sell art in four New York City Parks.

Linn first testified on a large series of photos that he contended showed evidence of artists causing congestion in the parks and reducing the aesthetic experience of being in park space. He noted that Central Park is considered an artwork in its own right and that there are many permanent and temporary artworks and sculptures in the parks. He appeared to claim that artists working in the parks reduced the ability of the public to enjoy these large-scale artworks sited in the parks.

During voir dire for entering the photos as evidence and during cross-examination, Linn admitted that he had directed park staff to shoot particular photos but had only brought a small portion of those photos to court. Judge Tingling asked the city to give the artists’ attorneys access to the other photos. Linn suggested that what he had done was no different than what artists had done with testimony and videos during Monday’s hearing, but Brooks countered that Linn was attempting to claim his photos represented a general situation in the parks while the artists were presenting particular facts of specific moments. At one point Linn suggested that video shown in court on Monday (such as the video taken on Wien Walk by artist Peter Walsh) was staged. That comment was stuck from the record.

Linn was also grilled on the details of the revised park rules after he testified that he had a significant hand in drafting the rules. At one point he was given a copy of the rules while he searched in vain for an explanation of the process park officers should use in several situations that might arise implementing the first come first serve system.

Also of note, when pushed during questioning, Linn admitted that he did not know of any documented complaints against artist vendors by members of the public. This is in direct contradiction to the city’s published revised rules, which state that such complaints were the impetus for drafting the new rules.
The hearing continues on Monday, September 20th at 2pm at Judge Tingling’s courtroom at 60 Centre Street, Room 321.

(Image: Justice Milton A. Tingling, Jr. in court today. Drawing by Peter Walsh)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Artists Peter Walsh and Joel Kaye Testify, Hearing to Continue Wednesday

"It smells like a license, it walks like a license, it talks like a license," said plaintiffs' attorney Jon Schuyler Brooks as he described the Park Department's new medallion scheme today in Justice Milton A. Tingling Jr.'s courtroom at 60 Centre Street in Manhattan. New York City laws and multiple court rulings forbid the city from imposing a licensing system on artists working in city parks.

Brooks and fellow Phillips Nizer attorneys Kevin B. McGrath and Jeffrey L. Shore presented arguments in favor of converting the standing Temporary Restraining Order against the Revised Park Rules restricting artists' ability to show and sell art in NYC parks into a Preliminary Injunction that would be in effect pending a final court ruling. The city's attorneys argued against the TRO and the Injunction saying that the revised rules were "reasonable time, place and manner restrictions." Attorney Brooks countered that since the rules only place restrictions on the number of artists who can work in the park, that they aren't in fact time, place or manner restrictions at all.

Artist Peter Walsh testified first confirming that he had shot video of artists being forced to race for authorized spots in Central Park. The video was then shown to Justice Tingling and the courtroom.

Artist Joel Kaye then testified about several videos that he had shot at Union Square Park including footage explicitly showing that the city's "authorized spaces" place artists dangerously close to speeding cars and buses, that Greenmarket trucks cause far more congestion than artists, and that there are large open spaces in Union Square Park at even the busiest of times.

The hearing will continue this Wednesday, September 15 at 2pm at the New York County Supreme Court building at 60 Center Street, Room 321 in Manhattan.

(Image: The New York County Supreme Court building at 60 Centre Street in Manhattan. Photo by Peter Walsh.)

Friday, September 10, 2010

State Judge to Hear Artists' Testimony this Monday, September 13th

Justice Milton A. Tingling, Jr. of the New York State Supreme Court will hold a hearing this Monday, September 13th at 2pm at 60 Center Street, Room 321 on the current Temporary Restraining Order blocking the enforcement of new park rules. Those rules restrict the ability of artists to work in New York City public parks. The hearing could result in a Preliminary Injunction that would block enforcement of the rules pending a final decision in the case filed against the city by artists Diane Dua, Joel Kaye, Artists United and others. That final decision may be many months away.
The artist plaintiffs are represented by Phillips Nizer lawyers Kevin B. McGrath, Jeffrey L. Shore and Jon Schuyler Brooks who will be calling witnesses to give evidence on the artists’ behalf. Artist Peter Walsh is scheduled to testify confirming that he shot video on Wien Walk documenting the degrading regulations created by the new park rules that force artists to race to designated artist locations at 6am every morning.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

NY State Court Issues Temporary Restraining Order Against Park Rules

New York State Supreme Court Justice Martin Schoenfeld has issued a five day temporary restraining order blocking the enforcement of the new park rules, effective immediately.

According to Robert Lederman, president of one of the street artists' organizations, A.R.T.I.S.T., " The injunction prevents the Parks Dept from enforcing the decal marked spots and the numerical limit on artists but does NOT stop them from enforcing the new restrictions in the new rules on distance from trees, monuments, benches, the width of a sidewalk and exigent circumstances."

Judge Schoenfeld has also ordered a "Show Cause Hearing" for Monday morning, August 30, 2010 to hear arguments in the case and to decide on whether to extend the injunction.

See more in Albert Amateau's article in today's Villager: "Art Vendors Suit: Regs are unfair to women, elderly."

To see a copy of the injunction click here:

Artists United files in New York State Court for an injunction against the new NYC park rules arguing the rules discriminate against women, the elderly and the disabled.

Following on the heels of multiple videotape examples of artists being forced to race each other for city-approved vending locations in four New York City parks (Central Park, Union Square Park, Battery Park and the High Line), the artists group Artists United has filed for an injunction against the new rules in New York State Supreme Court.

For details on the new court case see the article by Albert Amateau in Downtown Express, Volume 20, Number 36 / August 25 - September 1, 2010: “Second lawsuit challenges new vendor rules for parks.”

To see video shot by Peter Walsh in Central Park see the July 31, 2010 post on this blog: NYC Mayor Bloomberg Forces Artists to Run for Their Livelihoods.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Session Seven: Sharif Sadiq and Peter Walsh

Sharif Sadiq drawing on Wien Walk in Central Park. Photo by Peter Walsh.
Before coming to the United States about a dozen years ago, artist Sharif Sadiq trained at a traditional art school in Rawalpindi, Pakistan but also had a side gig painting colorful billboards advertising movies.

“The faces could be as large as 30 foot tall,” he says. “We’d paint them in sections in the studio and would only see the completed murals when they were put up in public. The eyes might be five foot across,” he continues stretching his arms out to either side to indicate the remarkable scale of the paintings.

Here in New York, Mr. Sadiq has studied at the Art Students’ League where he won a prize for his work and with the famed Minneapolis-based correspondence school Art Instruction, Inc., best known for their “Draw Me” advertisements in the back of magazines. He has been drawing portraits on Wien Walk in Central Park for about ten years, working mainly on weekends nowadays. Mr. Sadiq and Peter Walsh exchanged portraits on Saturday morning, August 14th, 2010.

Some comments from Peter Walsh:

“Sharif and I had a leisurely drawing session and we chatted at length over coffee as he set up for the day by assembling mattes for soon to be completed commissions. We talked shop over drawing techniques and I admitted that I still used the slower method of laying out the framework of a person’s face first rather than preferred method of the professionals – starting with the eyes and working outward. ‘That’s the original way,’ he says of my strategy, ‘I trained that way too.'

I drew first and am happy with the results although we joked that I made him look a little like artist Jorge Rivera who I drew last week and who was sitting just a few feet away. Sharif made a great smoky and nuanced portrait of me saying, ‘The public likes drawings to be very smooth but you are an artist so I’ll give you something more difficult.’ Thanks Sharif!”

Peter Walsh and Sharif Sadiq exchanging portraits in Central Park, August 14th, 2010.

The drawings will be posted soon.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Private Real Estate and Public Parks

Why? Why did the New York City Parks Department create new rules to restrict artists’ access to public parks? Who would want that to happen?

Today’s New York Times gives us a glimpse of who might have an interest. Directly linking private real estate property values to public parks, the article, “As a Park Runs Above, Deals Stir Below” by Alison Gregor, focuses on equity developments in proximity to the High Line, one of four NYC parks effected by the new park rules. The other parks are Battery Park, Union Square Park and the southern half of Central Park.

Of particular note, not mentioned in the article which doesn’t discuss artists at all, is that the High Line was the site of the first of the recent crackdowns on artists by the Parks Department: the illegal arrests of A.R.T.I.S.T. president Robert Lederman and artist Jack Nesbitt in November and December 2009. The Parks Department was forced to settle out of court for an undisclosed sum.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Twelve Portrait Exchanges Now Complete

Jorge Rivera and Peter Walsh exchange portraits in Central Park, Saturday, August 7, 2010.

This past Saturday, August 7, 2010, on a cool summer morning on beautiful Wien Walk in leafy Manhattan, artists Jorge Rivera and Peter Walsh completed the twelfth portrait exchange of the Central Park Portrait Exchange. Six new drawings (three exchanges) are now included in the Flickr slideshow at the top of this page. If you don’t see the slideshow there, go to the Drawings page listed in the menu on the right hand side of this blog.

Comments from Peter Walsh:

"In a small change up from standard procedure with the project, I drew Jorge first, and then sat for him. We had a very interesting conversation about marriage, divorce, Colombia (he’s from Bogota originally), the legal battle over artists' right to work in the parks and drawing techniques.

When he first arrived in New York City about ten years ago, Jorge worked with charcoal pencils but he says he quickly changed to the small Chinese charcoal sticks that are favored by many of the Chinese artists for their speed in rendering a portrait. I find them to be similar to a Conté crayon except that they are less chalky and a little bit greasier. I still use a hard charcoal pencil, but, learning from the other artists, I now keep them with a shallower point so that I can use the side of the point to lay in shadows quickly  – a very effective technique when time is of the essence.

Jorge has also adopted the popular method of first drawing the eyes of a person completely and then drawing outward. 'The eyes are the life of the drawing,' he says 'You have to begin there.'"

Saturday, July 31, 2010

NYC Mayor Bloomberg Forces Artists to Run for Their Livelihoods

“Oh my lord! It is ridiculous!” say NYC Park police officers.

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has created new Park Rules that drastically reduce the number of artists that can work in city parks, effective Monday, July 19, 2010. The new Park Rules force artists to literally run for their livelihoods. Every morning at 6am, artists must now race into each park to secure an authorized location. Artists who don’t get a spot either don’t work that day or they must relocate to a spot that dramatically reduces their access to the public. Hundreds of artists’ jobs are at stake.

This video was shot Saturday, July 31, 2010 at 6am by Peter Walsh.

Click here for the HD version.

For other disturbing video on the situation in Central Park, see Gao Min's videos here.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Session Five Report; Successful "Display Only" Stand

Peter Walsh and Ji Yin Jin exchanging portraits near Grand Army Plaza in the southeast corner of Central Park, July 30, 2010.

Although the new park rules are currently in effect, two excellent portrait exchanges were completed this morning: Ji Yin Jin and Peter Walsh and Qiao Fu and Peter Walsh. A cool summer breeze made for a relaxing drawing session, especially coming at the end of a particularly hot and sticky July. The new portraits will be posted soon.

At 10:30am, after the exchanges, Peter Walsh set up a "display only" stand in a plaza location that is currently "illegal" for art vendors. Just two weeks ago five artists would have been on site. Two PEP (Park Enforcement Patrol) officers came by to say that the spot was not open for use. After Walsh explained that nothing was for sale, and while videotaping the entire exchange, one of the officers called a supervisor and the stand was allowed to remain at the location. Federal Judge Richard Sullivan has specifically stated that a "Display Only" stand is a protected form of free speech. Later, Xiang Yue Chuan came by with a smile, "You won!"

Monday, July 19, 2010

Report on Today's July 19th Protest Against the New NYC Park Rules

Excellent turnout today for the rally in Union Square Park against the new New York City Park Rules restricting artists' ability to show and sell art work in four major NYC public parks. As many as 200 people attended at the height of the protest, carrying placards, setting-up "Display Only" stands in the formerly legal spots in the parks plaza or selling via hilarious "No Stand" vending displays (imagine an  artist's take on a sandwich board and you'll get the picture).

The media were out in force: New York Times, Daily News, NY Post, NPR and various TV news crews. I personally had extended conversations at my "Display Only" stand with reporters from the Wall Street Journal, Metro and World Journal (a US-based Chinese language daily).

Here's some of the media coverage (Special thanks to Robert Lederman for assembling these links):

New York Times, July 19, 2010
Vendors Thumb Nose at City Restriction

Artists Protest New Limit on Vendor Spots in Parks

City Art Vendor Limits Take Effect


NY Post
Gotta have art! Vendors protest new limits in city parks

NY Law Journal; lead article, cover. Also has judge’s entire ruling


Videos of 7/19/2010 protest and sell-in Union Sq Park

Sorry I wasn't in Central Park! Last minute changes in strategy brought me, along with other artists, to Union Square for the main rally.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

UPDATE: Artist Protest / Artists in Public Spaces Phone-In

Tomorrow morning, Monday, July 19th, 2010 at 9am, artists will begin a series of protests at all four park locations targeted by the new NYC Park Rules: Union Square Park, Battery Park, Central Park South and the High Line. The main protest will occur at Union Square.

I will be at Central Park South, across from Grand Army Plaza (near the Plaza Hotel) at 9am with a “Display Only” Informational Stand about the Central Park Portrait Exchange and materials for an Artists in Public Spaces Phone-In. Drop by if you can.

If you can’t come by one of the four parks, or you’re not in New York City, yes!, you can still help!

Just pull out your cell phone and join the Phone-In (See below). You don’t need to live in New York to let these public officials know your opinion; visitors are big business.

Telephone numbers are listed below the talking points:

Talking Points

Be polite but firm when making calls. Remember that many, though not all, of the people we are calling are our potential supporters and allies.

1) Tell the person who answers the phone who you are and where you’re from. You don’t need to live in New York to let these public officials know your opinion; visitors are big business.

2) Does the public official you are calling have a position on the new Park Rules restricting artists’ free speech in public parks? What is the position? Has it been made public?

3) If they don’t know yet about the new rules, tell them: The rules significantly restrict the number of artists who can sell in the parks and will put hundreds of artists out of work and/or subject them to tickets, fines and/or arrest. NYC Local Law 33 (1982), the First Amendment and several Federal Court rulings currently allow artists to work in the parks without seeking permission. The new park rules illegally rewrite NYC laws passed by the City Council, disregard the First Amendment and ignore Federal Court Rulings. The recent denial of an artists’ request for a preliminary injunction against the new park rules is only a temporary step in a longer court battle that has not ended.

4) Tell them you love seeing artists working in the parks. It’s part of what makes New York a world city. Everyone should have easy public access to seeing and buying affordable art.

5) Tell them you strongly support the right of artists to work in the parks.

6) Tell them you are outraged that the city is putting people out of work in the middle of a recession.

7) Tell them the new Park Rules aren’t needed. If there is a problem with congestion, the city should simply enforce the current rules.

8) Ask them to directly call Mayor Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Quinn and Park Commissioner Benepe and tell them to stop enforcement of the new rules.

People to Call:

Parks Commissioner, Adrian Benepe. 212 360-1305
email address:

Alessandro G. Olivieri, 212 360-1313
General Counsel, Department of Parks &Recreation,
Email address:
Mayor Mike Bloomberg, 17 E 79th St., New York, NY, 10021-0101

Bill de Blasio, Public Advocate for the City of New York, 212.669.7250

Christine C. Quinn, City Council Speaker, (212) 564-7757 , then click “Contact Speaker Quinn”

City Council Members page:

If you live in New York City, contact your own City Council Member. If you don’t know who they are or what their number is, go to:

City Council Parks and Recreation Committee:

Elizabeth S. Crowley, 718.366.3900, District 30 Queens Democrat
Daniel Dromm, 718.803.6373, District 25 Queens Democrat
Julissa Ferreras, 718.651.1917, District 21 Queens Democrat
Vincent J. Gentile, 718.748.5222, District 43 Brooklyn Democrat:
Melissa Mark-Viverito, 212.828.9800, CHAIRPERSON District 08 Manhattan Democrat
James Vacca, 718.931.1721, District 13 Bronx Democrat
James G. Van Bramer, 718.383.9076, District 26 Queens Democrat

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Judge Denies Preliminary Injunction – Protests to Begin Monday Morning.

Federal District Court Judge Richard J. Sullivan has declined to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement of the new NYC Park Rules designed to dramatically reduce the number of artists working at key locations in city parks. Artist protests will begin Monday morning at 6am in Union Square Park in Manhattan. Stay tuned for details soon.

Although it is disappointing that the judge failed to rule against the new park rules, history suggests that this is just the beginning of the latest round of battles over artists’ use of public space. For example, artists have previously been denied injunctions by judges and then have gone on to win their lawsuits. Lawyers for the current artist lawsuits, Lederman et al v. New York City Department of Parks and Recreation et al and Diane I. Dua et a. v. New York City Department of Parks and Recreation et al, will appeal the preliminary injunction denial immediately. The cases themselves are still very open.

To see the full text of the judge's ruling, click here:

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Report on the “Show Cause Hearing” Regarding New Park Rules for Artists

(Photo One: Artists Protest at Federal Courthouse in Manhattan. Photo Two: Robert Lederman, artist plaintiff and president of the street artists' group A.R.T.I.S.T, speaking to reporters after the Show Cause Hearing. Photos by Peter Walsh)

About 100 artists gathered outside the Moynihan Federal Courthouse at 500 Pearl Street in Manhattan this past Thursday morning to protest the proposed revision of New York City Park Rules as Federal Judge Richard J. Sullivan held a two hour “Show Cause Hearing” that may lead to a temporary injunction preventing the Parks Department from implementing the rules until the full case is heard.

Judge Sullivan promised to rule by Friday, July 16th. Enforcement of the new rules is due to begin Monday, July 19th at 6 a.m.

In detailed questioning of lawyers representing both the city and the artists, Judge Sullivan touched on at least four major issues that affect the standard he needs to meet if he decides to grant the injunction.

1) Content Neutrality. Are the new rules biased against certain opinions or individuals? The judge clearly thought not.

2) The government’s right to regulate the use of parks, specifically concerning issues of public safety (i.e. Are the artists causing dangerous congestion?) and secondarily the preservation of park experience based on aesthetics (connected to a D.C. Federal Court ruling keeping vendors off the D.C. mall). The judge appeared to believe that the city made assertions of congestion but had no real fact-based evidence as to congestion nor as to what number of artists would be appropriate (50 artists are OK but 200 are not? Why?). However, he did seem to indicate that it wasn’t his job to interfere in the city’s management of park rules if ultimately they had a right to regulate the time, place and manner of vending of First Amendment vendors.

3) Narrow Tailoring. If there is a genuine government interest in reducing congestion in the parks, are these particular rules tailored in an appropriately narrow fashion? The judge appeared to think that the city provided little or no evidence on the appropriate level of restriction and was particularly skeptical of the logistics of the city’s first come, first serve plan for distributing proposed vending spaces in the parks. (The artists are supposed to line up at the edge of each park and then, at 6 a.m. sharp, race to a limited number of authorized sites? The city’s attorneys admitted point blank that they didn’t know how this would work.)

4) Alternate Channels/Venues. Lawyers for the city claimed that, except for the four locations scheduled for regulation (Central Park South, Union Square Park, Battery Park and the High Line) the rest of New York City’s parks are open for use by artists. Lawyers for the artists countered that, in reality, current rules concerning the width of sidewalks and distance from park furniture for vending already rule out large portions of parks for use by First Amendment vendors. The judge seemed to believe that neither side presented substantive evidence of these assertions and both sides declined an invitation for a second hearing to provide evidence. The judge left open the possibility of such a hearing for next Thursday morning, July 15th. Attorneys for the artists also asserted that the First Amendment allows artists to meaningfully interact with the public and therefore artists should be allowed to set up in those areas where people normally congregate – the high traffic areas scheduled for regulation.

Again, a ruling on a temporary injunction to block the enforcement of the new park rules is scheduled to be made on or before, Friday, July 16th. Enforcement of the new rules is due to begin Monday, July 19th at 6 a.m.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Session Four: Artashes Karslian and Peter Walsh

Artashes Karslian, who works near the Central Park Zoo on Wien Walk, has been drawing portraits on the streets and in the parks of New York City for 15 years. Originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, Mr. Karslian completed a portrait exchange with artist Peter Walsh on July 1st, 2010.
Most portrait artists working in Central Park use charcoal on newsprint as their preferred medium. Mr. Karslian, however, champions a unique brushed oil paint on watercolor paper method.

Some comments from Peter Walsh:
"Artashes has a surprisingly gestural drawing technique for such a clean and smooth portrait style; his brush seems to dance in the air over the surface of the paper before he gently slashes from one side or the other to produce the fine tonal gradations that he favors.
Sometimes he takes a wide, dry house painter’s brush to the entire drawing to give a more uniform grey tone to the page before he cuts back in with either a hard white eraser for highlights or a small flat brush to create small dark details.
Looking at his finished portraits I had assumed that Artashes was putting final touches in with a dab or two of white gouache. I was surprised instead to see him pull out a double-edged safety razor which he grasped at the edges to produce a U-shaped bow which he uses to cut out tiny nicks of paper which leave behind a splash of light in the sitter’s eyes, or a highlight on the tip of their nose.
‘My style takes a little bit longer than the other artists,’ he admits, but when I was working with him a line formed of people willing to wait. One young mother who said she was from upstate New York was bringing her children one by one to Artashes to have their portraits done. ‘We come to the park specifically to see him,’ she admitted."

Photos from the exchange by Peter Walsh and several passersby:

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Fourth of July! See you in court.

July 8th Hearing Set for City to Respond to Artists’ Request for a Preliminary Injunction Against New NYC Park Rules

In response to an artists' lawsuit, Judge Richard J. Sullivan of the United States District Court, Southern District of New York has ordered the New York City Parks Department to “show cause as to why a preliminary injunction should not be issued” in Lederman et al v. New York City Department of Parks and Recreation et al.

The “Show Cause Hearing” is set for this Thursday, July 8th, 2010 at 10:00 A.M. in Courtroom 21C of the United States Courthouse at 500 Pearl Street, in downtown Manhattan. The docket number is 1:10-cv-04800-RJS. For a map, click here.

What does this mean?
Artists have asked the courts to stop the enforcement of the new Park Rules, due to begin on Monday, July 19th, until the larger court case is decided. The judge will rule on a possible preliminary injunction. Although it will be excellent news for artists working in the parks if an injunction blocks the rules in the short run, ultimately it will be the decision in the actual court case that will preserve artists’ free speech rights. To see the artists’ Verified Complaint against the City, click here.

If you decide to attend, please allow extra time to pass through the security screening. Also remember that no cell phones, cameras or recording devices are allowed in the building. However, you are allowed to check them at the entrance and pick them up when you leave. Also note that you may be able to draw in the courtroom, as long as you are not disrupting the proceedings. Courtroom personnel are the ultimate authority on this.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Drawings So Far!

The slideshow below shows the first eight portrait exchanges, those completed by June 28, 2010. The show will be updated as more drawings are completed.

To go to full screen, click the arrows icon in the lower right hand corner of the flickr slideshow. To see info about each exchange, after you go to full screen, click "see info" in the upper right.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Photos by Deidre Hoguet from Session Three

Photos from Session Three of the Central Park Portrait Exchange, Thursday, June 17th, 2010, featuring artists Dario Zapata, Lin Ruo, Guo Kun Sheug and Peter Walsh.

Click on the lower left hand corner icon (with arrows) to get the full sized slideshow.

Special thanks to Deidre Hoguet for taking these photos.

Monday, June 21, 2010

New Article includes Portrait Exchange Photos and Quotes in Discussion of Revised NYC Park Rules

Journalist Leslie Koch's new article "Artists sue Mayor Bloomberg, NYC Parks Department over new regulations" features two photographs by Robin Randisi from the Central Park Portrait Exchange and quotes from Peter Walsh.

From the article:
"Two street artists filed a lawsuit on Friday accusing the Parks Department of violating artists' constitutional rights by restricting the number of art vendors in four popular Manhattan parks.

Artists Robert Lederman and Jack Nesbitt filed a lawsuit against Mayor Bloomberg, Parks Commissioner Benepe and the Parks Department on Friday June 18, 2010 in response to new regulations on art vendingin city parks.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe were named as co-defendants.

When the new rules go into effect on July 19, over half of vendors who sell "expressive matter" will be shut out of Central Park, Union Square Park, Battery Park and the High Line Park.

This includes artists who sell their own paintings, sculptures, prints, photographs and books.

"I spoke to more than 100 park artists the day after the rules came out. Not one expressed agreement with the new rules," said plaintiff Robert Lederman, 59, in an email.

Lederman is the president of advocacy group ARTIST (Artists' Response To Illegal State Tactics). He and co-plaintiff Jack Nesbitt, 70, have repeatedly clashed with the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations over the right of artists to sell their work in public spaces.

Their lawsuit alleges that "the real purpose behind the Revision is to rid the parks of artists and independent written matter vendors in order to give preference to corporate vendors."

For the complete text go to: "Artists sue Mayor Bloomberg, NYC Parks Department over new regulations"

Friday, June 18, 2010

NYC Parks Department Sets New Rules, Artists Sue To Block Enforcement

From Robert Lederman, the president of the street artist group, A.R.T.I.S.T.:

"June 18, 2010 - The Parks Department has finally published the revised Park rules for artists in the City Record. There are no more hearings. It is now the law in parks. Enforcement will begin in 30 days.
A lawsuit was filed today which seeks a temporary injunction to prevent the rules from being enforced in 30 days. The initial plaintiffs are myself and Jack Nesbitt. Other artists are also planning to file their own separate lawsuits."

For the complete announcement from Lederman and A.R.T.I.S.T. go to:

For the full text of the New Rules:

To see the New York Times article, which makes no attempt to ask any artist their thoughts or opinions, go to:

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Session Three Report

Two and a half portrait exchanges were completed today: between Dario Zapata and Peter Walsh, between Lin Ruo and Peter Walsh and between Guo Kun Sheug and Peter Walsh (A busy work day at the park stopped us in mid-exchange. We’ll complete it soon). The morning was gorgeous, cool and sunny. The effects of a light shower last night were still visible this morning in various shallow puddles and the occasional raindrop being shaken down from park trees. The drawings were done at one of the main locations for professional portrait artists in Central Park - near the Plaza Hotel and across from Grand Army Plaza at the corner of 59th and East Drive. Photos coming soon!

Comments by Peter Walsh:
“Finally we appear to have found an excellent acid free paper that has many of the drawing properties of newsprint, which is the standard paper used by many portraitists in Central Park: Zerkall Book Smooth, 100 gram, in white. Dario, who frequently does caricatures when working in the park, did a spot-on portrait on the new paper, which he described as excellent. But I struggled with completing my end of the exchange! Lin jumped in and drew me in profile while I worked on Dario’s portrait and finished much earlier than I with an excellent likeness. I completed the exchange with Lin while he ate his lunch and surprisingly finished quickly and with a satisfying likeness. Guo did a fine portrait of me in a burnt umber Chinese charcoal/chalk but as the park was getting crowded and business was good, he asked me to finish the exchange at a later date.”

Thanks go out to my lovely wife Deidre Hoguet who was on hand to take photos. A number of people stopped by to see the action including curator George Ciscle and artist Micki Spiller and her young son. Thanks to all!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Full Photo Slideshow from Session Two

A more complete set of large photos by Robin Randisi from Session Two of the Central Park Portrait Exchange have been uploaded to Flickr!

Click on the lower left hand corner icon (with arrows) to get the full sized slideshow.

Special thanks to Robin Randisi for taking these photos.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Session Three: Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Portrait Exchange Session Three:
Time: Thursday, June 17th, 2010, 9:30am -12:30pm
Gueorgui Dimitrov, Artashes Karslian, Peter Walsh, Jorge Rivera, Dario Zapata
Location A: Northwest Corner of 59th Street and East Drive. Near the Plaza Hotel.
Location B: Wein Walk, Near the Zoo entrance. Enter the park at East 61st Street and turn right.

If you can’t find us, call 347.723.5049.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

New Pamphlet!


At each portrait exchange session, many park goers have had questions about both the new park regulations and the Central Park Portrait Exchange itself. With Louise Ma's wonderful help and design skills, we now have a new eight page pamphlet that answers many of the questions that we've heard asked.

Click here to go to a pdf of the pamphlet.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

First Photos from Session Two!

First photos from Session Two of the Central Park Portrait Exchange are now available! Embedded below.

Click on the lower left hand corner icon (with arrows) to get the full sized slideshow.

Special thanks to Robin Randisi for taking these photos.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Battle Begins

Robert Lederman, the President of the street artists’ organization A.R.T.I.S.T., sent out the following email message today regarding a Park Enforcement Police (PEP) action at Union Square Park (USP) in Manhattan:

New USP development Friday May 28

This Friday at 5:30 AM the PEP came to USP. They made all the artists leave the park. I heard they confiscated some unattended tables as well. The artists were then directed to stand in a line until 6AM at which time they were "allowed" to re-enter the park. The PEP then checked everyone's tax ID and did other enforcement.”

To see the complete update go to:

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Session Two Report

Two more portrait exchanges were completed this today between Li Qun and Peter Walsh and between Dean Lu and Peter Walsh. The morning was overcast and breezy with a fine mist occasionally threatening to become rain, but the weather held out. The drawings were done at one of the main locations for professional portrait artists in Central Park - near the Plaza Hotel and across from Grand Army Plaza at the corner of 59th and East Drive.  Photos coming soon!

Comments by Peter Walsh:
“These two exchanges went very smoothly. We used a new paper – Windsor and Newton 90lb. hot pressed watercolor - which worked a lot better than the Rives BFK used for Session One, but still it had more texture than the newsprint that many of the artists in Central Park normally use. We may try yet another paper for Session Three. Xiang Yue Chuan joked that I had made Li Qun look a bit like Mao, and Dean Lu was amazingly fast, drawing with a piece of compressed Chinese charcoal in one hand and a cigarette in the other.”

Thanks go out to Robin Randisi and Miriam Eusebio who were on hand to take photos. Both are members of the website, a new artists’ barter website, and they will be completing barters soon with Walsh in exchange for their photos work. Seems a fitting way to deepen the exchange project and their pictures will be posted soon!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Session Two This Thursday

Portrait Exchange Session Two:
Time: Thursday, May 27th, 2010, 9:30am -12:30pm
Artists: Li Qun, Peter Walsh, Xiang Yue Chuan, Dario Zapata
Location: Northwest Corner of 59th Street and East Drive. Near the Plaza Hotel.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Second Slide Show - Photos by Kathy Brew

Here's another great set of photos, taken by Kathy Brew, showing each of the three portrait exchanges done during Session One of the Central Park Portrait Exchange.

One of the most interesting aspects of the drawing process that you can clearly see in this set of photos is that the three professional portrait drawers, Zhuang Xuemin, Ren Jien-Guo and Wei Chen, start with the eyes, lock in the key features, and build out to finish, whereas Peter Walsh lays out the basic architecture of the head and then drops the features into this frame.

Many thanks to Kathy Brew and Roberto Guerra for coming out to help document the project.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

First Photo Slideshow!

First photos from Session One of the Central Park Portrait Exchange are now available! Embedded below.

Click on the lower left hand corner icon (with arrows) to get the full sized slideshow.

Special thanks to Louise Ma and Alex Ramirez-Mallis for taking these pictures.

Monday, May 17, 2010


The first three portrait exchanges were completed this morning on the lovely tree-lined path leading up to the Central Park Zoo. Artists Wei Chen, Ren Jien-Guo, Peter Walsh and Zhuang Xuemin traded sketches to get the Exchange off to a great start. Each drawing took about 15-20 minutes, first with Walsh posing and then, switching chairs, with Walsh drawing. Each full exchange - with two drawings, discussions and interviews - took about an hour. Photos, slides shows and video will be posted soon!

Comments by Peter Walsh:
“The first drawings are very interesting. The portraits I did of Zhuang, Ren and Chen, drawn in that order, are fine although I really didn’t hit my stride till the third drawing – of Wei Chen! It’s brutally difficult to keep up with these professionals. In general, my drawings seem a little bit flat still. I’ll have to work on building depth. Each portrait of me is unique, which I find exciting. Each of the artists captured a different aspect of how I look. I think that Chen, Ren and Zhuang had a better grasp of capturing a likeness than I do and they certainly work amazingly quickly. The only real drawback for the day is that the paper I chose – Rives BFK – has too strong of a tooth. We all struggled with it. I may see if I can find a smoother paper for the next session.”

Kathy Brew and Roberto Guerra were on hand to shoot video and do interviews with both the artists and passersby. Louise Ma multi-tasked doing fantastic Mandarin-English translations, taking photos and explaining the project to interested park goers. Alex Ramirez-Mallis was also on site taking photos. 

Many thanks to everyone! Stay tuned for updates, news and schedule announcements.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Schedule for the Central Park Portrait Exchange

You’re invited to come up to Central Park and see the drawings as they are being created!

There will be four half-day drawing sessions, one per week from the middle of May to the middle of June 2010. Rain dates, if necessary, will take place by extending the schedule further into June. Here’s the current schedule:

Portrait Exchange Session One:
Rescheduled time and place due to rain!  
New Time: Monday, May 17th, 2010, 9:30am – 12:30pm
Artists: Wei Chen, Peter Walsh, Zhuang Xuemin and others
New Location: Enter the park at East 61st Street and turn right, we'll be near the Zoo entrance.

Friday, May 7, 2010


Test portrait exchange between Peter Walsh and Xiang Yue Chuan, April 23, 2009.

Welcome to the new blog for Central Park Portrait Exchange! I hope to be adding content rapidly as the project gets up and running. The actual drawing performances may start as early as next week, the second week of May 2010. Keep an eye out for details!

Why this project?

I've been wanting to do a portrait exchange with artists working in Central Park for several years. As a drawer myself, I'm impressed by the speed and precision with which they work. Yet I'm also interested in the economics of art-making. These artists get paid one price, artists in Chelsea get another, and as a conceptual artist supporting myself with non-arts jobs, I frequently get nothing in exchange for my art!

On top of these issues, the City of New York and the NYC Parks Commission have forced my hand by proposing that most of the talented artists working in Central Park and in other parks be shut down. The time to act is now!