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When Californian artist JM Knudsen heard of the Neighborhood Curbside Canvas Project in New York, he knew he had to bring his talent to the street. He bought a ticket to NYC — and now he’s bringing art to Mom’s Kitchen and Bar on 9th Avenue and W48th Street.
“I wanted to bring life to these COVID-19 outdoor structures. I wanted to incorporate the style of Mom’s Kitchen with Cartoon Network, Golden Girls, and nineties nostalgia — mixed with my style,” he said as he took a break from painting on 9th Avenue on Friday evening. “This is the second project for Curbside Canvas in Hell’s Kitchen. It’s had a huge impact with the community so far. All the workers at Mom’s love it, people are coming by and drivers are honking.”
JM regularly uses his signature “You Are Great” message in his art. In summer 2017, he completed a commission at the Jimi Hendrix Red House on Haight/Ashbury in San Francisco. For his Hell’s Kitchen project he created a special high visibility jacket with an image of Jean-Michel Basquiat on the back and an appeal to “Never Give Up”.
Working in the traffic of 9th Avenue has been a challenge — but JM’s jacket has helped. “if I’m going to die in the name of art, I’ll do it right here,” he said with a nervous laugh.
Curbside Canvas was founded by Bill Tsapalas, after he was inspired by a bike ride through Tribeca last year. He could see that restaurant owners had limited resources and vision to make their temporary outdoor dining areas attractive, but Bill is a creative strategist, and he decided to help beautify these plywood sheet structures.
So far the project has engaged over 40 artists around the city — and enhanced the look of a similar number of restaurants. The artists love having a canvas to work on, and the eateries feed the artists while they work and cover the cost of art supplies.
“We’ve helped 30 restaurants across eight neighborhoods in three boroughs. We started in Hell’s Kitchen in November with Tito Murphys on Restaurant Row,” Bill said. “We match artists who want to volunteer and help beautify the pop-ups that the restaurants have put up. A lot of the restaurants can’t afford big fancy structures and big fancy paint jobs. We’re an all volunteer, not for profit organization. We have about a hundred artists and they all just want to do whatever they can to help bring New York back.”
Patrick Schmidt, Director of Hell’s Kitchen Hospitality — which owns Mom’s Kitchen & Bar, House of Brews, Dolly Varden, and New York Beer Company — told us: “We are starting to feel the beginnings of a renaissance in our industry. The Curbside Canvas initiative has been a source of positive energy and excitement for our team. The artwork projects have been somewhat symbolic of the opportunity that lies ahead for us as a hospitality community. We can’t thank Bill and JM enough for their contributions to our recovery. Let’s hope these murals become fixtures in the neighborhood for years to come!”
The project will be completed today (Saturday) and JM welcomes visitors who want to check out the work in progress at Mom’s.
UPDATE. Here are photos from JM Knudsen of the work nearing completion at Mom’s Kitchen.