Street Artists (New York City)

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Date: 1994

Region: North America

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Photography, Mixed Media, Painting


Artist: New York City street artists

Confronting Bodies: The City of New York

Dates of Action: 1994-Present

Location: Sidewalks in New York City

Description of Artwork: Artwork of individual artists, ranging in painting, drawings, photographs, sculpture, etc

The Incident: Individual artists were arrested, threatened with arrest or harassed by law enforcement officials for attempting to display and sell their creations in public spaces in the City without a general vendors license. Some had their artwork confiscated and damaged.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the ruling that the artists need a vending license to sell their work. They claimed that the City's requirement that appellants be licensed in order to sell their artwork in public spaces constituted an unconstitutional infringement of their First Amendment rights. (See Berry v. City of New York, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.) This was derived from a 1982 law that exempted vendors of newspapers, books and other written matter from requiring a license, consonant with the "principles of free speech and freedom of the press."

Results of Incident: Despite this 1996 decision, police continued to harass and arrest artists. This is particularly the case in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is administered by the parks department and therefore considered by the City an issue independent of the court's ruling. Artists have filed lawsuits against the City of New York and Mayor Giuliani for infringing on their First Amendment rights.

Source: Find Law Resources, NCAC [{Category:New York City