Why Don’t They Do This in New York?


When I was in Italy, I saw lots of artists creating beautiful sidewalk art like this man drawing Girl With a Pearl Earring in Siena. They seemed to be enjoying their endeavors and appeared to be collecting a decent amount of money. This got me wondering, why don’t they do this in New York City?

Once in a while, artists do draw on the sidewalk in NYC. I have no idea if sidewalk art is legal here or in Italy. Regardless, it’s nowhere near as popular as in Italy. You’re far more likely to find street musicians and dancers than artists. Italian cities have a lot more open sidewalk space thanks to plazas big and small and I guess the artists just want to fill those blank canvases. Artists flock to Italy for inspiration and while they’re getting inspired they want to make some money too.

My other theory is that the sidewalk artists would make far more money in Italy they would in the US because of the currency. Bystanders would frequently drop in one-euro coins and I’m sure more than a few confused (or perhaps just generous) tourists donated two-euro coins. While, dollar coins do exist here, they’re quite unpopular. And since people tend to throw coins rather than bills, the recipients are at a distinct disadvantage. After all, a quarter is worth less than a fifth of euro. Remembering that I can easily hold $10 coins in my hand is always a challenge when I’m in Europe since U.S. coins are worth so much less. And remembering not to lose the coins at the bottom of my purse is even harder.

10 Responses to Why Don’t They Do This in New York?

  1. Mag July 31, 2009 at 10:16 am #

    It reminds me of Mary Poppins, and Burt’s drawings in the park…

  2. Heather Hapeta August 1, 2009 at 2:43 am #

    they do it in Christchurch New Zealand!! come on down and check us out . or read my blog on

  3. Rachel Danos August 1, 2009 at 3:36 am #

    I saw this two weeks ago in Florence. Increadibly talented, and yes, we estimated they would collect a few hundred Euro a day at least. Well worth the donation.

  4. Andrew August 6, 2009 at 12:55 am #

    I saw something similar being done while in Toronto. Love it.

  5. A New Yorker August 6, 2009 at 9:36 pm #

    There is a guy who does this In New York. Though, I haven’t seen him around this year. I wonder if he is ok…

  6. Doug Pologe August 12, 2009 at 1:26 pm #

    I would ask this question: If there were open spaces in NYC such as you see here, is this the way that those spaces would be used? The answer is probably “no”, although I can imagine some interesting musicians showing up.

  7. Megan August 13, 2009 at 10:36 am #

    Columbus, Ohio called “Via Colori” where local artists paint large chalk drawings on the sidewalks in Goodale Park. It is really cool:

  8. Stephanie August 25, 2009 at 4:54 pm #

    Oh yes I saw them doing this in Rome as well:

  9. H. Marbury September 24, 2009 at 7:25 pm #

    The guy in NYC who does the Renaissance chalk drawings on the sidewalk is Hani Shihada –
    He is available to do a huge blowup of any picture you might have – including a portrait of your boyfriend on the sidewalk in front of his apartment!

  10. maddonari December 23, 2010 at 12:24 pm #

    i’ve done sidewalk art in new york and used to make good change but what you say is true about the money .. but also italy is where the art form started so it is part of the history .. in new york it is not .. some new yorkers love it .. some hate the art form .. i think subway graffiti artists from new york have had a effect on how native new yorkers see the art form .. same for the new yorkers who like it ..

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