Harlem Canvas for Change

During a devastating week of anguish in the middle of a global pandemic, Barbara Askins, president of the 125th Street BID and its Board of Directors, felt the pain of the protestors in the community and around the world. She initiated “Harlem Canvas For Change” (HCFC), which calls for property owners and businesses along 125th Street who had boarded up their storefronts with plywood to paint the walls black and turn them into a canvas for people to express their ideas and emotions on social justice. 

The response from owners and businesses in this historic black community was almost instantaneous.

Ms. Askins, who has a background in fine arts, and Drew Greenwald, Chair of the BID’s Streetscape Committee, developed a program that created a living canvas calling for social justice in all forms and inviting everyone to share their emotions, feelings and sense of frustration in a creative way – through words, drawings, poems and verse. Blick Art Materials, a tenant on 125th Street, provided the graphic medium.

The first painted walls wrap around the AMC/Magic Johnson Theaters. The walls now depict the raw emotions many are feeling and have lived with, even before the public execution of Mr. George Floyd.

“The death of George Floyd has unearthed many emotions and thoughts that should be expressed. Everyone is angry!!!! Let’s turn that anger into an instrument for change,” writes Ms. Askins. “The BID will use this project to impact public policy here in our city. We only ask that you include #harlemcanvasforchange, #125thstreetbid and #harlemstrong in your posts.”

She is inviting residents of all ages, business and community leaders, elected officials, artists, and celebrities to contribute their thoughts at this moment. One at a time, each boarded façade along the 125th Street corridor will be painted black until the businesses are ready to re-open.

For more information, contact

Sam Mattingly, SMS Communication