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  • Words and Photos by Erica Stella

The Rose Face of Lafayette Lives On

If we focused on big corporations and their abuse on the human condition and artistic liberties, the topic would go on for days. Instead of directing our attention on negatives, and there definitely are enough; Sold Magazine commends businesses, big and small, when they "Do The Right Thing". Our praise does not wash away other offenses, nor forgive past injustices. But when they don't take advantage of an artists' original work, and they easily could have, we are happy to talk about it. In this specific case, Starbucks is good with us.

Starbucks, the Seattle based, American coffee company and coffeehouse chain, recently acquired the space at 157 Lafayette Street in NYC, formerly known as Collete Night Club. It is astounding that in 2018, Starbucks is still opening new Manhattan locations. When viewing the empty space for the 1st time, the team noticed the set of heavy front doors with a beautiful and colorful face painted on the inside. Thankfully these adorned front doors also had a signature at the bottom. The artist was none other than Danielle Mastrion, and she was happy to share the story with us.

Located next door to Baby Grand (the tiniest, most adorable karaoke bar in NYC), the new coffee station is on Lafayette just South of Grand Street. Danielle painted the doors as a favor to the owner of Collete, Christophe Auguet back in 2015. Before that another Brooklyn artist, Alex Smetsky painted the doors earlier that year with a Smurfy sign of peace.

Alex painted the now infamous doors for the previous occupant, so there has been much activity at this spot for the last few years.

Around that time in recent Street Art history, the 214 Lafayette Project was turning over frequently, The L.I.S.A Project was active in the neighborhood, and Tristan Eaton was around every corner! The club owners wanted to be a part of the beautiful mural activity descending around the area, but like so many NYC dreams that aren't fulfilled, the business closed shortly afterward.

Once Danielle was notified about Starbucks moving in, she fought hard to get the doors turned to face the inside. This would avoid them getting damaged or bombed while the lot was vacant.

Danielle painted these doors as a favor without pay, but for promotion and visibility of her artwork and name. There was no legal reason for Starbucks to do anything other than sell the doors, or hang them as their own property. As history has shown, it doesn't take much for someone to claim ownership to public artwork, public domain and finders-keepers making everything much more dicey.

But that wasn't the case. Starbucks not only kept their word throughout the process, but they went above and beyond to reach out to the artist and purchase from her directly, keep it in its original location, and give it back to the neighborhood that wanted to enjoy it again. After the piece sat abandoned for 2 years, Starbucks did everything by the book, and treated the mural as an existing piece of fine art that deserved to be preserved.

During the move-in and installation of new coffee machine, Starbucks invited Danielle to come in & put finishing touches to the installed doors.

One night while the space was still vacant, there was a fire set, and there was some damage to the bottom of the doors.

Danielle invited Sold magazine along to see the progress, and how the Rose Face would look on a Starbuck's wall. When we walked in, after the initial awe of seeing the doors properly hung on the giant wall, was that the burn marks along the bottom weren't too offensive. The track-lighting was professional, and the installation on the large wall was impressive.

More than cleaning up the burn mark, the doors needed a good wipe down. They were dusty and dirty from construction and moving, and the artist was the only one to take care of that choir.

In addition to the door, Starbucks has other art throughout the store commissioned from other artists. When we went looking for the proper light switch, I noticed there was a clarification. There were lights specifically for artwork, but that wasn't Danielle's track-lighting; her label was marked "GRAFFITI".

We had a laugh at how Starbucks has put her in a box, but that was a box she was happy to be considered in. The other art in the coffee shop was not prominently displayed like her doors, and giving them that title meant Starbucks also knew the difference.

If you remember this beautiful Rose Face on Lafayette from 2015 or not, it is now on view during shop hours. Check out this installation, and make sure you tag the artist in your best Starbuck's selfie! Or just be on the look-out if you sit in this spot, it will be highly photographable. I am partial to this one, both coffee lovers unknowingly match the doors, and I love it!

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