The 100 Gates Project began in 2014 with Billy Rohan, a New York City artist and pro skateboarder, and brought to life with help from the Lower East Side Partnership (LESP), a not-for-profit economic development organization.
Before connecting with Natalie Raben, LESP’s Senior Vice President of Partnerships and Public Affairs, Rohan had been pounding the pavement, going door-to-door encouraging LES businesses to allow himself and fellow artist Jessica Blowers to paint their roll-down gates with original murals. Knowing just how limited – and precious – space is in New York City, Rohan wanted to help beautify his community through street art that was accepted and encouraged, on veritable canvasses that would be seen and embraced by both locals and visitors.
Raben helped Rohan fund the public art initiative by taking the idea and cause to the City and applying for a Neighborhood Challenge Grant (a joint initiative between the Department of Small Business Services and NYC Economic Development Corporation). After winning the grant in 2015, the LESP took over formal operations of the program while Rohan kept on his curatorial hat. The next two years were spent forging connections with artists and merchants in the LES….
By the end of 2015, 75 gates now had murals. In 2016, Tiger Beer approached The 100 Gates Project and became a partner in helping the organization reach its goal of 100 gates—which occurred in September 2016, at the LES’s iconic Katz’s Delicatessen.
In early 2017, the 100 Gates Project was awarded a grant from New York City Department of Small Business Service’s Neighborhood 360° program to help support a pilot expansion of this community development initiative—beginning with East Harlem and Downtown Staten Island. Midway through 2017, CouncilMember Debi Rose of Staten Island also allocated additional discretionary funds to help expand the ever-growing project into new neighborhoods within her district.
While the project remains grassroots and dedicated to local communities, it’s an exciting time to expand the project’s presence beyond the Lower East Side—because beautification and community improvement know no bounds.