Last October, Ellis Gallagher was arrested in NYC for creating a chalk drawing on the street, and spent 17 hours in jail before having the charges dropped. Creating outlines of shadows with chalk is something he has been doing for years without any trouble to speak of, having once even been given a blessing from the neighborhood police precinct where he lives in Brooklyn to work without interference.
I had the good fortune to meet Ellis one day on the streets of Northampton in the summer of 2007, while he was here making preparations for his wedding. (Gratuitous shout-out to the streets! Holla!) He was bent over on the sidewalk in front of Pinocchio's furiously chalking the outlines of shadows cast by the sun. As I've written before about Ellis,
I ran into Ellis one fine summer day last year, as he was in town making preparations for his wedding. A native and resident of Brooklyn NY, I caught Ellis furiously chalking the shadows of trash cans, trees, bicycles, and the like on Main St. It was beautiful, not just the art, but the creation, and after speaking with Ellis that day, discussing his art, their art, his choice of canvas, nyc, and blah, we became fast friends.Yesterday, the Village Voice reported some new mouth opening news regarding the arrest of Ellis last October.
Last week, Gallagher filed a notice of claim, notifying the city of his intent to sue for false arrest, unlawful imprisonment, and pain and suffering. He is seeking $5 million in damages...Holy! Cut. It. Out. $5 Million Dollars! As the Village Voice noted, "he knows it's unlikely that he'll be able to squeeze much out of the city," but still, damn!
...Gallagher says his $5 million complaint is not about the money—he knows it's unlikely that he'll be able to squeeze much out of the city—but about the principle. "I want peace of mind—no fear of arrest or harassment, freedom of expression, knowing that I can go to sleep at night doing what I do without fear of being incarcerated," he says.
I wonder how these things work. Will the suit get easily dismissed, or will the City settle? 'Cause if that's the case, if this is something that gets settled out of court, even a token gesture of $177,000.00 for instance, would be eye popping. Either way, Ellis Gallagher just vaulted himself into the pantheon of current news in NYC, which is no small feat considering the news originating from that fine city. This is a story that will get lots of attention from the press there, and from all the blogs covering nyc or the street art scene, of which there are many. I have a feeling Ellis just slyly orchestrated a lot of free press. Good for him.
Well, now all you residents of Northampton who saw his chalk work this past year on Main St. can tell a story. "Hey, I saw that chalk outline of the fence in front of Michaelsons, the dude who did it is suing the city of NY for 5 Million Dollars!"
Ellis was up here a few times this summer, and hit Main St. heavily each time. As well, he chalked his name on the north side of the building housing the Calvin Theater, closest to King St. You can still see it there, written in chalk; © Ellis G.
(photos of Ellis Gallagher on Main St in Northampton from Northamptonist's Flickr)
LABELS: arts and culture, downtown, public space, street art