SaveArtSpace Highlights Public Art by the People, For the People

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SaveArtSpace / Jonah Welch

When Justin Aversano and Travis Rix started SaveArtSpace in 2015, their mission was to put art back on the public canvases which had been taken over by advertising. By buying up ad space (on billboards, bus stops and more), SaveArtSpace gives artists opportunities to show their work publicly in their communities, pushing back against the gentrification and hyper-advertization of numerous neighborhoods around the US. I spoke with Justin this week about some of the non profit’s most exciting past, present and future projects and the genesis of the incredible organization.

Justin jokes with me about the genesis of the brand: “The whole idea came from smoking a joint on the couch and thinking, ‘What’re we gonna do with our lives?’” And thus SaveArtSpace was born. The project’s first show, entitled Bushwick Open Studios 2015, was intended to support artists from Bushwick by giving them an opportunity to show their work publicly around the neighborhood. In 2015, Justin was self-funding these shows, but as word began to get out, they started accepting donations to fund future projects. SaveArtSpace continues to demonstrate that art is for everyone, not just members of the elite art old guard or those who have access to museums.

Justin and Travis aim to highlight art with a message that expands peoples’ understandings of the world around them. One of the organizations’ strengths is the way that the founders decenter themselves in the curation and selection of projects, allowing the community and their trusted artists’ to select themes for shows and suggest artists for future projects. For example, the 2020 show “WE DEMAND AN END TO POLICE BRUTALITY NOW!”, featured artist Adeshola Makinde's powerful invocation of the Civil Rights’ Movement’s vernacular during the turbulent summer of 2020.

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SaveArtSpace / Adeshola Makinde

“Looking Forward // Queer Futures” was curated by Mich Miller, Sky Cubacub, & Rebecca Shippee and featured Brendan Shea, Ari Salka, Marne Lucas, Toni Smalls, Daniel Alejandro Trejo, Hannah Rubin, CJ Miller, Duff Norris, Bailey Davenport, and Dustin Steuck. SaveArtSpace functions as a structure and support system for artists to disseminate their work in the best gallery of all, public space.

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SaveArtSpace / Queer Futures / Brendan Shea

“Trans People Are Sacred” is arguably my favorite project put on by the organization. The show had an accompanying GoFundMe, which raised over $35,000, allowing SaveArtSpace to provide 14 artists with 14 billboards throughout the United States and also provide each artist with a $1,000 honorarium. “It is our goal to reclaim public space for the Trans community,” reads the site’s mission for the project.

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SaveArtSpace / "Trans People Are Sacred" / Jamie Malone

I implore you to browse through all of the organization’s exhibitions, as there are too many to highlight in this article and they all deserve immense recognition.

Recently, SaveArtSpace teamed up with one of the most widely-known NFT projects in the game right now, “CryptoPunks” to display some of the legendary pixelated characters on billboards around Miami. The project, titled Pixelated, features 96 punks displayed across billboards and bus shelters in Miami. Those pieces are up now, but the next city to be overrun by Punks will be NYC, where SaveArtSpace began. Much like with their other projects, this exhibition was curated by a major player in the space, gmoneyNFT.

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SaveArtSpace / Pixelated

In addition to the physical punks, each piece of public art had a corresponding NFT, which could be redeemed by tweeting at @SaveArtSpace and @gmoneynft with a photo of the billboard or bus shelter; the first 5 to do so for each piece received the NFT. It’s an NFT of a picture of an NFT. Inception.

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SaveArtSpace / Pixelated

Justin is a major player in the NFT space; he introduced a lot of huge names to the process and his project, Twin Flames, was the first major NFT photograph project sold on Open Sea. We’ve got a lot more to cover with Justin; we’ll be discussing his Twin Flames project in greater detail and covering the forthcoming Punks project in NYC. Stay tuned.

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