Spirit of Harlem (public art)

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Artist: Louis Delsarte

Year: 2017

Date of Action: December 2017-May 2018

Region: North America

Location: 125th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard, New York City, NY

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Public Art

Confronting Bodies: Footaction, Foot Locker

Description of Artwork: The Spirit of Harlem is a glass mosaic mural created in 2005 by Louis Delsarte, a Brooklyn-born artist and professor of Fine Arts at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. Originally commissioned by North Fork Bank and housed on a building occupied by Capital One Bank, “The Spirit of Harlem” is an iconic tribute to the Harlem Renaissance and to contemporary artists living and working in Harlem.

The Incident: In December 2017, The Spirit of Harlem was covered by a layer of black bricks erected by the building’s new tenant, Footaction, a subsidiary of mega-retailer Foot Locker. Soon after, a petition to restore “The Spirit of Harlem” was developed and circulated by Maira Liriano, Associate Chief Librarian at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Results of Incident: In the same month, Footaction publicly responded to the above mentioned petition by committing to remove the wall obscuring the artwork and renovating the mural itself. The full restoration of the mural was completed later in May 2018.


Sneaker Retailer Bricks Over Iconic ‘Spirit of Harlem’ Mural | UPDATE: Footaction Commits to Restoring Mural, NCAC, December 6, 2017.

After Moving Into the Neighborhood, a Store Walls Off ‘Spirit of Harlem’, The New York Times, December 17, 2017.