Submit your photos to the “Music is Legal” t-shirt gallery

Almost immediately after we started giving them out, we began spotting our “Music is Legal!” t-shirts all over the city. Now that we’ve managed to distribute most of this summer’s supply, we’re creating a gallery of photos performers wearing the shirts.

If you have a photo of yourself you’d like to submit, you can send it to BuskNY@gmail.com and we’ll post it in our “Music is Legal!” gallery!

We only have a few photos so far, but it would be great to see more people showing support!


Meanwhile, I’ve been working on setting up my own silkscreen equipment, so I can make even better shirts, with a new design, next year.

Also, don’t forget that our “Music is Legal” event at Armature Art Space in Bushwick is this Monday night! We hope to see you there!

Announcing our first event: “Music is Legal!” at Armature Art Space

Rules of Conduct

BuskNY is pleased to announce our first community event on Monday, October 7th at Armature Art Space in Bushwick. We’re bringing together musicians and audience members to begin some community-building, and to discuss the way forward in dealing with harassment of subway performers. We’ll also be sharing updates on our own current cases and activism: stay tuned!

We’re excited to have a number of NYC subway performers meeting for the first time. And as we prepare for organizational hibernation over the winter, we want to hear from YOU what we should focus on next summer. We’re particularly keen to get everyone involved on many levels, including with advocacy, visibility, our “Music is Legal!” photo project, and spreading the word directly within the community. We look forward to seeing you there!

“Music is Legal!” at Armature Art Space
316 Weirfield St, Brooklyn, NY 11237
Monday, October 7, 9:15PM-11:30PM

Join this event on Facebook!

Follow Armature Art space’s page on Facebook for updates on future events (including an exhibition of my paintings sometime early next year!)

Painting Underground: Chris Wright

Compared to musicians, we don’t encounter many visual artists in the New York subway system. Sure, the MTA has done significant work bringing visual art into public spaces, but we rarely see the process: even people sketching strangers on the train in little Moleskine notebooks are a rare sight. So I’m always excited to hear about somebody painting down there:

Chris Wright, the professor at Pratt who taught me how to paint with oils, has been posting pictures on his Tumblr blog of oil paintings he’s done on the G line platforms (as well as just about everywhere else!)

Flushing Avenue G August 16, 2013 (12:00-3:00 pm)

Flushing Avenue G
August 16, 2013 (12:00-3:00 pm)

Classon Avenue G September 7, 2013 (12:00-2:00 pm)

Classon Avenue G
September 7, 2013 (12:00-2:00 pm)

Very exciting to see painting not only on display, but actually being made in the transit network. Clearly, this is something that the public has an interest in protecting. You can see more of Chris Wright’s work at his web site, chriswrightpaintings.com.

Zoom Balloons in the 14th Street Sixth Avenue Tunnel

On our way back from Harlem, Matthew and I stopped to pick up some cheese at the Westside Market on 14th St. and ran into balloon sculptor Zoom in the tunnel. We had met Zoom a few times before, and in fact still have a gift from him, one of his heart flower balloons, slowly shriveling on top of a dresser.

This time, we got this great balloon clown. Everyone was jealous of it. Or terrified. It was hard to tell.

Matthew and Zoom

Matthew and Zoom

Nothing seems to lower Matthew’s inhibitions quite like holding a silly prop does.  Enjoying the reactions of strangers to the balloon man, he asked our train neighbor what we should name it.

He responded, “Charlie Sheen.”

Matthew and Charlie Sheen

Charlie and Matthew reflected in the train window

Zoom’s web site at http://www.zoomballoons.com/ appears to be down, but I found an article about him on the blog Manalapan Patch. If you’re in the tunnel between the L and the 1 on the 14th St Sixth Avenue station, check out his work!

 

Printing the “Music is Legal!” shirts

The shirts arrived Thursday evening, and since I only had two days available to print them before losing access to my studio space (and I’m spending Sunday helping to install my show at the Painting Center), we had to rush to get them done.

buskny_shirt_printing 002

135 t-shirts

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Printing the first shirt.

With only two people, it took seven or eight hours to finish the front side of all 135 shirts.

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We started with the pink shirts.

My cousin Zeke took a detour into the city on his way up the Appalachian Trail, and he offered to help us print the backs. With his help, we finished them in four hours.

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And he bought us food!

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The print shop’s mustachioed Pratt Cat, who is most often found sleeping in the paper guillotine’s scrap bin, visited us in the silkscreen lab.

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About half of the finished shirts.

Matthew and Kalan will start distributing them to subway performers this week. Remember: Music is Legal!

7/25: Arrest: how the decision is made

Summary:

If you are approached by police while performing in accordance with MTA rules, you have the right to continue your work. It is highly recommended to film the encounter, to display the MTA rules (we’ll mail you a copy free), and to state the officer’s badge number out loud.

If you are arrested for doing so, you have not committed a crime, and you have the right to a wrongful arrest lawsuit. See “Who To Call” for more information on doing so.

So, the big news from today is that I was arrested for a third time. Here’s how it happened:

I arrived at 68th St at 12:10 PM, unpacked, stood up with the instrument, and saw a police officer on the other platform as I did so. He shined his flashlight at me and shouted: “Not today!”

Well, it just so happens that I believe that music’s legal. So I hollered back: “Yes! Today!” Then I launched “Gigue” from the third Bach partita, and the officer set off for the stairs to reach my platform.

By the time he reached me, I had my instrument in its case to avoid damage. He told me to leave, I asked why, and this is what we established as the situation:

I then said that I was clear on the rules [“The following nontransit uses are permitted by the Authority, provided they do not impede transit activities and they are conducted in accordance with these rules: public speaking; campaigning; leafletting or distribution of written noncommercial materials; activities intended to encourage and facilitate voter registration; artistic performances, including the acceptance of donations; solicitation for religious or political causes; solicitation for charities.”], and that I would continue to perform until given a summons or being arrested.

Officer Kennedy — who had given me his name and badge number on request — said he would “call a unit” to arrest me, and that in the meantime, I could speak with the station manager. I went up, called Milo to say I’d be arrested soon, and talked to the station manager. This is what I found out:

I went back downstairs to meet my fate, and shortly afterward, two more officers arrived, one in a blue shirt and one white-shirt. They conferred with Officer Kennedy, then left without talking to me. After that, I waited for a possible arrest on my platform, and Officer Kennedy waited across the tracks without saying a word. I felt about like this:

After a long period of waiting, I wanted to work or be arrested, not sit around and be scared of some pseudo-legal threat. So, I got out the violin again. Officer Kennedy waved his arms, disappeared upstairs, and came back down a minute later with a new story, this time about a non-existent permit:

Since he was back in my face, I asked what options there were at that point. He still wanted me to leave “voluntarily”, which is how the NYPD says “through intimidation and without any legal justification.” I wasn’t having it and asked again if he would proceed to arrest:

Now, I’m not sure what was said in his initial meeting with his superiors, but I think he had cold feet at this point. In any case, he called for backup a second time, and I got to talk to Officer Bastien, who asked why it was legal to play:

Strangely, his curiosity about the law seemed to evaporate when he had the chance to have a copy of the rules in his hands. He changed to a new tactic, telling me that the rules could be “overruled” in the case of a safety problem.

Here’s the second part of his explanation of why police officers can decide the law:

I understand what he was saying, but what I didn’t see was the safety problem on that platform, which I repeatedly pointed out was quite empty. He finally said that he couldn’t explain the problem since he wasn’t there when I was asked to leave, and I asked if Officer Kennedy could explain it to me again:

Check out that long pause when he’s asked if Officer Kennedy can identify a safety concern. The reason he comes up with: “He asked you to stop playing and you would not stop.” So essentially, I was performing, there was no safety concern — but when I was then asked to leave the station and refused despite intimidation, THEN there was a safety concern.

And THIS reasoning, ladies and gentlemen, justified my arrest. Just after this video, Officer Bastien walked over to his superior, Sgt. Robson. There was a ten-second conversation, then Sgt. Robson approached me, ordered me to put my hands behind my back, and had me step against the wall.

Busking log 6/07: Screen-printing, movie-making

As promised, today was spent hard at work on the sample run of BuskNY t-shirts. (I can disclose by now that we’re planning a Kickstarter, with one modest goal: equipping every last NYC busker with a bright, dashing “Music is Legal!” t-shirt).

We started with the acetate sheets, which Milo had inked with the “Music is Legal!” design.

ink on acetate

The design was then transferred to the screens, a process which involved this large, frightening vacuum machine:

don't ask: i don't know what's going on either!

In the end, we succeeded in printing all 7 shirts. (Well, okay — two were bloopers, but only because of me!) Here’s the final product:can't wait to wear 'em!

We also spent a number of hours filming and editing for the Kickstarter video, which is now complete. We had a lot of fun with it, and think you will too. The Kickstarter approval process takes a few days, so stay tuned — it’ll be up before we know it!

In the meantime, we’ll be back to regular busking updates soon. After all, one’s gotta make rent somehow around here!