Snow­den bust kicks off New York art fes­ti­val


A ce­ment bust of Amer­ica’s most- wanted whistle­blower Ed­ward Snow­den, once fa­mously con­fis­cated by po­lice, re­turned to public dis­play in New York on Fri­day to kick off a street art fes­ti­val.

The 45- kilo­gram l ike­ness stands proud on a plinth in Man­hat­tan’s tourist- clogged Lit­tle Italy neigh­bor­hood, to be guarded round the clock un­til the week­end Lo Man Art Fes­ti­val closes.

“If any shenani­gans be­gin they ( vol­un­teers) find our se­cu­rity guards and we make sure we keep ev­ery­one safe,” says com­edy man­ager Wayne Rada, who founded the fes­ti­val and Lit­tle Italy Street Art Pro­ject.

Com­ing four months af­ter it hit the head­lines for be­ing erected on a war me­mo­rial with­out per­mis­sion, or­ga­niz­ers hope it’ll help put the small art fes­ti­val on the map.

The bust takes up pride of place on empty ground nick­named “tem­per tot lot” for two tow­er­ing de­pic­tions of an­gry tod­dlers by artist Ron English.

“If there’s a lit­tle bit of talk or eye­brow rais­ing that’s not a bad thing,” says Rada.

“All they ( the artists) want to do is show off the Snow­den bust and cre­ate a dis­cus­sion — whether you agree or dis­agree, that re­ally doesn’t mat­ter.”

Artists Jeff Greenspan and An­drew Tider say they erected the bust on an Amer­i­can Revo­lu­tion war me­mo­rial in Brook­lyn last April “to high­light those who sac­ri­fice their safety in the fight against mod­ern-day tyran­nies.

“It would be a dis­honor to those memo­ri­al­ized here to not laud those who pro­tect the ideals they fought for, as Ed­ward Snow­den has,” they said.

The 32- year- old for­mer con­trac­tor at the U. S. Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency, has lived in ex­ile in Rus­sia since 2013 af­ter re­veal­ing the ex­tent of mass spy­ing pro­grams by the United States and its al­lies.

The U. S. ad­min­is­tra­tion has branded him a hacker and a traitor who en­dan­gered lives, but he has been twice nom­i­nated for the No­bel Peace Prize and won a string of in­ter­na­tional free speech awards.

Fist Shak­ing

Rada says he set up the fes­ti­val to re­live the glory days of street art, which in the 70s and 80s ce­mented New York’s sta­tus as world cap­i­tal of sub- cul­ture and coolest place on the planet.

Two dozen ac­claimed mu­ral artists from around the world have been in­vited to cre­ate orig­i­nal work across Lower Man­hat­tan.

Or­ga­niz­ers hope that up to 60,000 peo­ple will visit the 21 odd pieces of art on dis­play around the area, film events and chil­dren’s ac­tiv­i­ties.

Ris­ing rents have forced out many artists and mu­si­cians, and it has be­come trendy to dis­miss Man­hat­tan as a mecca to cor­po­rate money- mak­ing, where the sub­cul­ture scene is on the skids.

“I think we can keep it rel­e­vant but we have to fight for it,” Rada said. It took “a lot of fist­shak­ing” to con­vince peo­ple that street mu­rals would be a good idea, he added.

“I tried to ex­plain to them that New York City is the nexus of the uni­verse for art and cul­ture, so we should do some­thing that re­flects that.”

English painted his pink tem­per tot spe­cially for the fes­ti­val. It de­picts his daugh­ter Ze­phyr and is pair to son Mars, in green, which was painted the day be­fore Hur­ri­cane Sandy struck in 2012.

The paint­ings are three sto­ries high, as if the tod­dlers were swept into the air out of their con­trol — but with bulging mus­cles to re­flect the terror that young tots can in­spire.

“This is the big sum­mer of the re­turn of street art,” says English.

He now lives in Bea­con, an art com­mu­nity in the Hud­son Val­ley, and says he was one of the first pushed out of Man­hat­tan by rent hikes.

“The thing that makes all the wealthy peo­ple want to be here is the art and the cul­ture, and if you squeeze that out, then they’re go­ing to leave too,” he said.


A bust of Ed­ward Snow­den, by An­thony Tider and Jeff Greenspan, is dis­played in New York on Fri­day, Aug. 7.

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