UPDATE: According to a source close to the matter, Mayor Shayne Gallo spoke with festival organizers and said the removal was due to a misunderstanding, as he thought the signs were put up by anti-SAFE act people and that he didn’t know the signs were part of an art installation. The mayor, the source said, told organizers he was against gun violence, calling it “a horror.”
Portions of an anti-gun violence art installation — part of this weekend’s O-Positive (O+) Festival — were removed from city property Friday afternoon, reportedly on orders from Mayor Shayne Gallo.
The artwork by Tatana Kellner and Ann Kalmbach consisted of dozens of signs commemorating mass shootings and endorsing the New York Secure Firearms and Ammunition Enforcement Act (NYSAFE), the tough 2013 gun control law passed in the wake of the Sandy Hook school massacre. The law has met resistance in upstate New York and Kellner and Kalmbach’s artworks were designed to mimic the “Repeal the S.A.F.E Act” lawn signs that dot the region. Festival organizer Denise Orzo and other members of the O+ art committee approved the installation because, she said, it fit in with this year’s theme of “The Other.”
“It’s the other point of view,” said Orzo. “Just to put it out there.”
The signs had been up for barely an hour, however, when a city employee and at least one Uptown business owner began removing them parking meters, light poles and other city property. The signs remained posted on a wooden fence outside a Wall Street business under construction. A city employee said the order to remove the artworks came “from the mayor directly” before declining further comment because he was not authorized to speak to the press. Gallo did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment.
Festival organizers said that the art would go up on private property, including RUPCO’s Kirkland building on Main Street and a building that houses Outdated Café and Chronogram magazine, instead.
“Successful art makes people feel something whether you like it or not,” said Orzo, who was confronted by an angry gun-control opponent on Wall Street over the signs. “If you feel, it worked.”