From Extinction to Art – Repurposing the ol’ New York City Parking Meter
STORY BY Conrad Stojak
Published: June 9, 2014
Fluke thing. I was going on a morning jog back in October when Banksy was all the rage when suddenly my shoelace got untied. I put my foot on a bumper of a car to tie it when I found myself staring straight into the dome of a defunct parking meter whose timer and dials were removed. I then said to myself, "If I really tried hard enough I could stick something in there". Later that day, I bought some cheap army men at a bodega and crammed a bunch of them inside just to see if it could be done. It didn't look so good but I found that I stumbled upon a brand new art form… parking meter art.
Perfecting the formula over the next few weeks and using the cover of darkness, I used smaller railroad figurines that I found at a local hobby store and began building elaborate dioramas with chopsticks and Elmer’s glue as if I were putting together a ship inside a bottle. The past winter was freezing and trying to make art at 2 o’clock in the morning disguised as a construction worker will leave you feeling as if you went totally insane but as an artist I’m driven by impulses. In the morning I would come back to the meters and spend as much time as needed to take photos of the art. Afterwards they we’re all destroyed either by a vandal, the city or the parking meter itself was completely removed. My work became ephemeral like graffiti, painted over and forgotten. The photos became treasures and are on display at the Dougherty Gallery in Long Island City, Queens. It’s not easy to impress a city like New York where everyone is convinced that bigger is better. But I got small, real small, 21mm in fact and I made a huge impact. The response has been overwhelming and pictures are selling like hotcakes out of the gallery.
I attribute the strong reaction to apparently discovering something that wasn't there. No one looked at parking meters as potential works of art or displays for such things. Who in New York City even has a good parking memory? The irony is that they are perfect. The glass dome is highly visible with a shelf inside where the old registration number was displayed. The meter itself is formed from iron and steel which could last forever. The meters litter the streets and are set to near eye level making the art easy to see. It’s a shame that the city didn't take a real look at them, to repurpose the meters into bike stands, flower pots, ad spots or even wi-fi stations. The possibilities seem endless and with minimal impact on existing infrastructure.
My goal is now to wrest the meters from the city. I want to get 50 to 100 of them and make them really elaborate. I also want to make the meters mobile and plant them all over the five boroughs just like how the “Cow Parade” and “Horses, Saratoga Style” sculptures were back a few years ago. This could be a massive city wide project and a second chance for the meters to show the world that they were more than the sum of their parts. Currently, I’m running a Kickstarter campaign to make it all happen: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/365997241/from-parking-meters-to-art-meters?ref=email
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