Wooster Collective

In 2001, Marc and Sara Schiller uploaded their collection of pictures to the Internet, emptying several hard drives of snapshots they’d taken on their frequent walks around New York City. At the time, loading images to the Internet was still a somewhat progressive thing to do, but it was hardly as revolutionary as the type of images the couple had decided to share with the world.

They were pictures of street art, and when Marc and Sara gave them to the Internet the Internet got really, really excited. Seven years, several books, and one hugely successful art show later, what is now known as Wooster Collective has touched artists, their admirers, and people just trying to understand what’s happening on the walls in their neighborhood. Wheat pastes in Brazil, murals in Romania — it’s all fair game if it forwards the cause of sharing good work with lots of people, particularly if that work only lasts for a night or two. Aside from making street art a little bit more enduring, this couple has helped to make it something worth celebrating, and for that we are forever thankful.

“As the artists react to their city, as they see shrinking public space, the proliferation of advertising, and gentrification, they all understand the impact of what their art has on viewers.”

Format: Your site, Wooster Collective, has existed since 2001. Can you give us a brief rundown of its history and growth, please?
Sara & Marc: We lived in downtown Manhattan and noticed all the street art that was up in our neighborhood. Once we saw one piece we were hooked and began to look for new pieces everyday when we walked our dog Hudson. We began to take a lot of digital photos and once our hard drive was full we uploaded them to the Internet. Once the photos were online everything exploded — people started seeing the photos and sending us emails with more images of art. Over time we have done street art walking tours, published books, written magazine articles and curated shows, like 11 Spring Street.

Format: What were you two up to before you started the site?
Sara & Marc: Wooster Collective has never been a business so we both work in marketing here in NYC.

Format: Your site has really helped artists connect and collaborate, which can be tough to do when so much of this kind of work disappears after a day or two. Has your site inspired the creation of even more street art?
Sara & Marc: The Wooster site, as well as other sites documenting ephemeral art, have always inspired artists. We receive emails where artists will say, ‘I saw this image on your site and I decided I had to get up off my couch and get out there.’ It has also supported the global nature of street art as artists from around the world can see what other artists are up to.

Format: I don’t think I would have ever realized how street art is, in many ways, a universal language without Wooster Collective. Whether something comes from Hong Kong or from Philly, it just makes sense. That’s a very powerful thing – what are your thoughts on this?
Sara & Marc: Street art is truly a global movement, and this has been fueled by the Internet. As the artists react to their city, as they see shrinking public space, the proliferation of advertising, and gentrification, they all understand the impact of what their art has on viewers. The motivations of the artists and the reactions of the viewers are the same all over the globe. Interestingly, the media and the government in every country are at slightly different stages. Here in NYC, the media is enthralled with street art, yet the vandal police are as active as ever.

Format: On that note, what would you say are the most constant universal themes in the art that is sent to you?
Sara & Marc: At its essence, street art has a couple of main elements: it is free, illegal, public and ephemeral. Many admirers of street art don’t really think through the ramifications of being caught, or the idea that something that takes hours to make can be destroyed within hours or minutes. Often street art is funny and surprising — it doesn’t always have a political theme to it. Street artists really think about a location before they put a piece up, so the context of the piece is important.

Format: You two probably understand better than anyone the dedication that goes into creating street art. It has such a short life span, yet artists pour their passion into it just for art’s sake. How has creating a permanent record of some of these pieces changed the way people can experience it?
Sara & Marc: First and foremost, we believe that street art should be enjoyed by people on the street. We want people to get out there and walk the streets, see what they can find, and enjoy looking at pieces in the location and context that the artist intended. However, we are realistic and understand that people can’t always see art that is in London or Sao Paulo or other locations around the world, and that is where the Wooster site, other street art websites, and Flickr fit in. People can see art from around the world and be inspired.

Format: You recently published another book, All My Friends Are Made of Paper. Can you tell us a little bit more about how that one came about?
Sara and Marc: We love the work of Armsrock. So, a couple summers ago we invited him to the US, looked through hundreds of photos that he has of his work and, along with Thundercut, created All My Friends Are Made of Paper. We believe the book brings to life his work both on the street and in his sketchbook as well as his ideology about the streets. Swoon’s introduction made the project extra special.

Format: You have a new Special Edition Project coming up — can you tell us anything about it?
Sara & Marc: We believe that people who come to the Wooster site everyday should see something special. Therefore we choose our images and videos very carefully. The same is true of anything we sell on the site. We love books so most of the projects are around books. Our current project with Darius and Downey will offer something that you can’t get anywhere else and supports the artists. We also just added a book by Alexandre Orion, a Brazilian artist who created hand-cut works of art to sell with the book.

Format: You wake up every morning to email boxes full of art. What does that feel like?
Sara & Marc: It is a fulfilling cycle. Everyday we are emailed things that we are inspired by and want to celebrate. In turn, people come to our site and see something new, authentic and special. And so many are motivated by it that they send more images and videos back to us. It is difficult because only about one percent of what we receive ever gets on the site. Some people get upset, or think that there is some special trick to get on the site, but in reality, we simply put up things that we love, that we want our friends to see and hope that others enjoy it too.

Format: Not asking you to play favorites, but where is most of your favorite work coming from these days?
Sara & Marc: It is really difficult to choose favorites. The easy answer is to look at the website — that is what we love. Perennial favorites include Shepard Fairey, David Cho, WK, Swoon, Armsrock, Zhang Dali, Blu, Ebow Toe, Bast, Judith Supine, Blek Le Rat and Banksy.

More Info: http://woostercollective.com

Carmel Hagen

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  1. I am on that site DAILY looking for new posts. Amazing site. Keep it coming. I would like to see some more in depth articles about the artists. But I realize 99% of the time it is impossible.

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