New project from the Center for Tactical Magic

Friend of the Center for Artistic Activism, Aaron Gach, has a new project in partnership with some great organizations. You can read more about Aaron in our Artist Interview section.

Stop & Frisk T-Shirts Sold on New York Streets

Souvenir vendors along Battery Park and beyond are teaming up with the Center for Tactical Magic and the Street Vendor Project of the Urban Justice Center for a public artwork called “Love is a Souvenir”.  The project addresses NY’s shifting public image locally and abroad in relation to the NYPD’s controversial Stop & Frisk policy.  Recognizing the role of street vendors as NY’s frontline cultural ambassadors, souvenir vendors are participating in this project by hanging a unique t-shirt alongside their goods (i.e., “I love NY” shirts, Statue of Liberty hats, NYPD-branded items, etc).  The design for the shirt replaces the heart of the iconic “I love NY” graphic with a symbol for the police tactic.

Many of these vendors are African-American veterans who work everyday selling items that promote NY’s public image as a place characterized by love, liberty, and respect.  However, they say that they go home at night to communities where friends, family members, and even they have been subject to aggressive police treatment.

According to Aaron Gach, an artist working with the Center for Tactical Magic, “This project interrogates the ways in which public policy imprints itself upon the social and cultural fabric of the city – both literally and figuratively.   The idea with this shirt is that the love is gone.  It’s been replaced by a symbol for this racist policy.   NY’s public image is changing – and not for the better – unless we put some heart back into it.”

Most New Yorkers walk past souvenir stands without notice, but for tourists disembarking from the Statue of Liberty ferry the vendors are well within their sights.  Susan Comfrey, a visitor from Minnesota, remarked, “I hadn’t heard about Stop & Frisk before.  I guess if you live in NY it’s familiar, but I was shocked to find out about it.  It doesn’t even sound legal to me.”

According to the Center for Tactical Magic, the aim of the project is to reach multiple audiences and to expand the current debate into new territory.  In a statement released by the group, they said, “We are collaborating with the souvenir vendors, but we are also working closely with the Street Vendor Project of the Urban Justice Center.  Additionally, this work is being performed in conjunction with a public art campaign called “Public Trust” produced by arts organization, Flux Factory (on view: Sept 7th – 30th).   Stop & Frisk is no longer a subject of conversation limited to activists, lawyers, and the innocent victims of police harassment.  It’s increasingly impacting all aspects of civil society.”

For more info:


The piece was written about on the NY Times City Room blog

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