Inspiration Spotlight: Artists Use Print to Raise Awareness of Disappearing Mom-and-Pop Shops
James and Karla Murray — a married team of architectural and interior photographers based in New York City — have been on a mission for two-plus decades to document and preserve images of “mom-and-pop” storefronts scattered throughout the city’s boroughs that not only have fulfilled residents’ retail needs, but created a sense of community through their daily interactions.
From bodegas to newsstands, delis and luncheonettes, this couple has recorded the closures of many of these family-owned businesses due to financially crippling rent increases.
To help raise awareness about their plight, the Murrays created “Mom-and-Pops of the L.E.S.,” a large-scale wood-frame sculptural installation designed to resemble a store. Each of the installation’s four walls is covered with a lifelike 8x12-ft. photograph of a neighborhood storefront from Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Three of these businesses have closed.
“When viewing the near life-size photographs, one can get a visceral sense of the impact of the losses of these businesses on the community and on those who once depended on the shops that are now gone,” said the Murrays in an artist’s statement describing this mixed media piece. “The installation is an artistic intervention and plea for recognition of the unique and irreplaceable contribution made to New York by small, often family-owned businesses. These neighborhood stores help set the pulse, life, and texture of their communities.”
Installed in the city’s Seward Park in June of 2018, this public art installation features large-scale storefront images printed on vinyl and laminated to durable, weather-resistant 3mm DIBOND aluminum composite material.
“It was awesome to print large photos of these mom-and-pops for installation in Seward Park and to get our message out to the fabric of the community,” said Karla Murray. “When you come up from the subway, you can see this piece right away. We wanted to print the photos so big that people couldn’t ignore it.”