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Interview with Sara and Marc Schiller, Founders of the Wooster Collective

Sara and Marc Schiller are the founders of the foundational street art blog, Wooster Collective, an inspiration to us and many other writers, photographers, and bloggers. The site captured the ephemeral art of New York City, helping to put names to the images that were starting to pop up all over the world. The couple has a new book called ELEVEN SPRING: A CELEBRATION OF STREET ART. It highlights the transformation of street art and the historic celebration of it at 11 Spring Street, a show that drew in crowds by the thousands to see the work of Shepard Fairey, JR, Swoon, Doze Green, and many more in one of the first curated street art shows. We reached Marc and Sara via email to get their thoughts on the show, their city, and tacos...

What's your favorite place to get a taco?
La Esquina and Tacoma both in NoLiTa.

When you started Wooster Collective, what was the original idea?
We started Wooster Collective because we had been taking photos of the street art on Wooster Street for years and the hard drive on our computer became full. So we began to upload the photos onto the blog and communicating with the artists. At that time we didn’t know that Street Art was a global movement and the artists were looking for information about other artists. Our website provided just that.


Is there a particular piece that really stands out in your mind as a favorite?
We would have to go back to September 2001 when we spent the weekends roaming around downtown going from one Fire Station to another. In front of the station on Sixth Avenue and Houston was what looked to be a candle as a little vigil. When we got a closer look we realized it was a sticker from Dan Witz - he had put these all over the city to commemorate the attacks on September 11th.


How did the Spring Street show come together?
We had been obsessed with the building for quite some time because the previous owner would place candles in the windows at night. And, it was literally an outdoor gallery for some of the best street art in the world. When Caroline Cummings bought the building, she was very open to have the artists paint on the inside to commemorate the long history the building played with street art. She literally gave us the keys the first day we saw the space with her - and, over 7 weeks we had artists from all over the world come to paint. Our challenge was trying to keep them from taking up all the wall space and to save space for other artists who were flying in.


Ultimately, what do you think the legacy of that show was?
The show became a tipping point for the Street Art movement. It went from being a subversive, underground movement to the cover of the New York Times art section.

Complete this sentence... We're living in the golden age of ____________.
Transformation. Neighborhoods are constantly evolving, people must go through metamorphosis to preserve themselves, art is altering lives every minute.


Do you have lucky numbers?
Sara: 13 - my field hockey number. Marc, strangely, doesn’t have one!

What's your favorite walk in New York City.
It’s still from the bottom of Wooster Street, through SoHo and into the Lower East Side. Though gentrification has taken many of the “Street Art Shrines” away - there is always something new to see.


How has Instagram and other media changed things in the world of street art?
When we started Wooster Collective there was only Flickr and blogging. So, a small number of blogs became very influential on who would find success with whom they put on the site. A cycle started where new artists thought that volume equaled quality and success. And, to a certain extent it did - once Instagram and other media sites started. Artists now can create an image of themselves by what they put up. They have complete control over it.

Do you have advice for other couples who work together?
For us, Wooster Collective is a passion project - we have always focused on street art for fun. This is a great way for couples to begin to work together - as there is no pressure to succeed. We found, that we both had strengths in different areas, and, by working together we could create more than if we were alone.


What keeps you excited about street art and graffiti?
For us, it has always been about the unauthorized pieces of art on the street. The ones that relate to the architecture and commerce surround it. This goes to the heart of street art as a movement about the Freedom of Speech, visual pollution by advertisers and public art.

When and where are you most happy?
Happiness for us is having a glass of wine with friends. We’ve always enjoyed being in New York City as most of the artists come through the City and we are lucky to spend time with them. We are always learning something new.


Got any shoutouts?
Of course the artists who participated in 11 Spring are amazing, however the photographers were critical to documenting the work. In 2006, without smart phones, we relied on many different photographers who have given so generously to this book as support. With any ephemeral art, without a photo…. it didn’t exist!

All the photos in this interview are from the book, ELEVEN SPRING: A CELEBRATION OF STREET ART, which you can buy here.


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