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Karin Schall is the person chalking up Hell’s Kitchen sidewalks with messages about masks, voting, staying home, and democracy. She says that her superpower is her “outrage”. Read on for Karin’s West Side Story.

So, what’s your New York story? Born here, or just arrived?
I was the kid from Northern New Hampshire who dreamt of living in NYC since I was 13. I made my dream come true when I was 23. So 7 years ago… haha… or 35 years ago.

How did you end up in Hell’s Kitchen?
My husband, Tom, was living in a rent-stabilized apartment in HK when we got married, and we loved the neighborhood. A co-worker told me there was an apartment for sale in his building. We bought it and moved from one fifth-floor walk up to another fifth-floor walk up — on the same block.

Karin Schall, working the polls in November.

What’s your favorite thing about Hell’s Kitchen?
Our amazing building neighbors/friends, the West Bank Cafe, Delphinium, the guys at the bodega who know your name and will let you pay later, the proximity to the Hudson River and Central Park, and, of course, in better times, the theaters.

And what’s your Hell’s Kitchen pet peeve?
Pre-COVID — tourists blocking the sidewalks, bicyclists going the wrong way in the bike lane. Now — anyone not wearing their effing mask!

Did you stay put when the pandemic hit or did you find an escape for some of the time?
We stayed here. Our building came together and we really look out for each other. Daily exercise routine and lots of laughs on our roof with 6 amazing women, nightly rooftop hero cheering, and cocktails. We also created a garden in our backyard.

What did you do for work pre-COVID? What are you doing now?
I’m extremely lucky. I’ve been at my dream job forever. I’m the Manager of Special Events at Lincoln Center Theater… and, bless them, I’m still doing it.

What’s the most interesting thing that you’ve learned during the pandemic?
How small an 800 sq ft apartment is.

Tell us one thing that’s given you hope during the pandemic?
Science.

What’s your closest brush with world fame and celebrity?
When someone tells me that they saw a photo of my “chalking” on a random post. For example, Timothée Chalamet and Mariska Hargitay!

What’s your superpower?
My outrage.

What song do you sing at the top of your voice in the shower?
Oh, I don’t sing.

Which people inspire you the most?
The many awesome activists who are part of Rise and Resist.

What’s your favorite quote or saying?
We are better than this.

If you could bring one thing (person/place/event) back to HK that is no longer around, what would it be?
Pam Real Thai Restaurant.

Add your shameless plug or personal profile?
I’ve been doing chalking messages, mostly in Hell’s Kitchen, since the spring. It started with Rise and Resist actions outside of Post Offices, and then I decided to message outside the empty Broadway theaters — “Miss Broadway? Wear your fucking mask”.

Sometimes I am writing positive messages, sometimes I’m angry. I’ve gone through many boxes of Crayola 64-count sidewalk chalk since starting. I never leave home without at least a piece of chalk.

HELL’S KITCHEN HAPPY PLACES

West Bank Cafe. Steve Olsen is an old friend and he’s cared for the theater community for over 40 years.

The 52nd Street Project. Tom and I have been volunteers at “the Project” for over 30 years. They are an amazing organization that works with the kids of HK.

Amish Market. The neighborhood would be a much different place without it.

Clinton Community Garden. Although it’s currently closed to non-gardeners, it’s such a peaceful, restorative space.

My home. It’s rare when a building full of people become such close friends.

Join the Conversation

12 Comments

  1. So glad to have read this. I’ve loved these messages in HK and wondered who was doing it! Thanks so much for this story and thank you for the inspiration Karin!

  2. I’m one of the lucky neighbors in Karin’s building. This conversation was so fun to read but it only touched the surface of what she gives back to the neighborhood in terms of volunteering and activism. If she ever gets tired of walking up the 5 flights of stairs, we will take turns carrying her up just so she never moves out

  3. I was lucky to have met Karin and her “Sunset Crew” during the nightly 7pm cheer from a neighboring rooftop. Her chalk drawings all around the hood are smart, witty, and show that a small effort can make a huge impact. Keep making good trouble!

  4. I am a Chalker in Northern Virginia and I bow to Karin’s commitment and artistry. She is the Queen of Chalk. She has such a positive attitude and great energy. I know she inspires other activists and hopefully gets some people to mask up. The article (will share)is fantastic at capturing all of her!! Great job.

  5. Karin is the REAL DEAL. She’s a fireball full of life living full out. As you can see I’m a fan!

  6. Wonderful piece on a strong, committed patriot. Thank you Karin, for being you. Your friend up Nawth

  7. We love every colorful chalk-talk we see around HK! Keep spreading your truth Karin! You express what all us chalkless folks are feeling!

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