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Trucks of Art: A Look at DSNY's New Exhibit

For the exhibit, New York City artists painted collection trucks to encourage sustainability and honor New York’s Strongest.

The City of New York Department of Sanitation (DSNY) recently unveiled "Trucks of Art," a unique art exhibit that challenged artists to beautify five new, state-of-the-art collection vehicles with hand-painted designs. Debuted in Times Square, the trucks’ artwork encourages New Yorkers to think sustainably and honors New York’s Strongest, the 7,500 uniformed men and women who keep New York City healthy, safe and clean. While this is the first time DSNY has transformed its collection trucks into an artist's canvas, Trucks of Art builds upon the department’s history of working with artists.

“We’re grateful that these artists volunteered to share their talent with New Yorkers,” said Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia in a statement. “These Trucks of Art truly are works of art, and they’ll beautify our cityscape while reminding New Yorkers that they’re our partners in keeping New York City healthy, safe and clean.”

Nearly 100 artists submitted design concepts, with artists as far away as Pakistan expressing interest in the project. Additionally, Trucks of Art was a zero waste challenge—artists used cans of New Yorkers’ unwanted paints collected from the department’s SAFE Disposal Events and Special Waste Disposal Sites.

The artwork and artists include:

Dister, a Manhattan-based artist, teacher, dancer, director and choreographer, used her skills to illustrate several of the men and women of DSNY who serve New Yorkers each day.

“My artwork is a depiction of sanitation workers, showing love to the NYC Department of Sanitation—and to our neighborhoods,” said Dister in a statement. “Sanitation is a vital part of how we live our day-to-day lives, and my work reminds people that sanitation workers are part of our community.”

Lady K-Fever, a Bronx-based interdisciplinary street artist who believes art is a catalyst for change, played upon the saying “stop and smell the roses” in her Truck of Art, which is now covered with flowers, birds and grass.

“We’re experiencing a global garbage problem, and I designed my mural to make people think about the beauty of our environment—and how their recycling can impact a positive future,” said Lady K-Fever in a statement. “Putting this design on a sanitation truck also reminds people just who helps them take care of our environment—DSNY!”

As a playful addition to her design, she incorporated reflective decals for added flair and visibility.

Misha Tyutyunik, a Brooklyn-based, Ukrainian-born painter, muralist, street artist, illustrator and virtual reality artist, and Victor A. Saint-Hilaire, lead artist muralist with Groundswell, teamed up for their Truck of Art, which will add bold color to the collection routes it will serve.

“My mural honors the Department of Sanitation and brings an awareness of recycling to the New Yorkers who DSNY serves,” said Tyutyunik in a statement. “My artwork often revolves around abstract concepts and designs, which I use to tackle different subjects, such as recycling, which is depicted in this truck.” 

Jillian White, an artist and principal administrative associate with DSNY, brought a personal perspective to her Truck of Art.

“I purposely wanted to portray a female sanitation worker to symbolize how our workforce has grown and diversified to include many women serving New York City,” said White in a statement. “My art honors the DSNY workforce and also encourages recycling, because it displays New York’s Strongest doing what they are known to do best—keeping our city clean.”

Energy Tech High School’s Visual Arts Teacher Alex Anastas led students in their effort to honor DSNY and encourage environmentalism.

“Our Advanced Art Mural students studied public art—including history, designing, creating and installing murals and public works. In Trucks of Art, they worked independently and collaboratively to best conceptualize and then beautify their truck,” said Anastas in a statement. “We were able to put their semester-long study of public art into practice.”

As the Trucks of Art artists began adding fine details to their murals, they sought specialized spray paints with fine nozzles not typically included with the household paints collected by DSNY. The art store Scrap Yard donated materials so that artistic elements in Trucks of Art designs would be easily visible to New Yorkers.

The Times Square Alliance hosted the public premiere of Trucks of Art on Broadway last Friday, where the five vehicles were on display. 

“DSNY is transforming trash to treasure in Times Square this week,” said Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, in a statement. “Times Square has always been about creativity and transformation, and more and more of it is a place of public art that fuses those things together. We are excited to have DSNY do this here.”

The trucks—each weighing nearly 23 tons and offering painters nearly 400 square feet of “canvas”—are “dual bins,” which have two containment areas to separate materials, for example isolating plastic, metal and glass from paper and cardboard. The Trucks of Art are the newest to join DSNY’s fleet, and each will be assigned to routes after being on display for the public throughout the summer.

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