A homegrown effort to help restaurants — and bring some art to the streets

Tribecan Bill Tsapalas comes from a restaurant and bar family in Baltimore so he knows, he says, “how hard it is just to keep the lights on, even in the good times.” And while he’s watched with excitement as our streets come back to life with curbside eateries, he understands full well the strain it must take on business owners to invest in the structures, especially when any kind of profits now are non-existent.

So he made the rounds to a few restaurants with an idea: how about putting local artists to work on all these blank wooden walls? The goal would be to add some color and artistic vision to the structures and maybe even bring some foot traffic to our streets, especially if the project takes off. He envisions what could be a walking tour of restaurant murals — an outdoor gallery crawl — for what he has dubbed the Curbside Canvas Project.

He’s now seeking both restaurants that want to participate, artists who want to help out, and donors who can underwrite painting supplies. He will do the rest: create social media accounts, map “the art trail,” document it all on video. When restaurants are forced to close for winter, there could even be an auction of the dismantled structures for their benefit. The folks at Taste of Tribeca are also helping him make contact with local restaurant owners.

If it works, Tribeca restaurants — and the neighborhood — could be even more of a destination for outdoor dining.

To get involved, email Bill at btsapalas@gmail.com. And if you can donate funds to underwrite supplies, do it here at the GoFundMe page set up for this purpose.



  1. Once again, artists are being asked to work for free.

  2. Sounds like an intriguing idea, but: The artists should be paid for this. Artists are struggling and need to make a living also. If the restaurant does not operate for free, then neither should the artists or anyone else who effectively works for the restaurant.

  3. Just for the record, in the case of this effort and the involvement of Taste of Tribeca, is it partially to pay back the restaurants that for 25 years supported local schools — and their kids and parents — with their donations of time, staff and supplies at Taste and other fundraisers.

  4. Good idea but artists need to be paid for their work. Always. Artists are also struggling due to the pandemic.

  5. What a great idea! It is so nice to see neighbors helping neighbors.

  6. I like this! I am happy to get involved and would consider a collaboration? Giving is a major component in fighting this pandemic. This ‘community’ boost might spark Tribeca nostalgia.
    I will contact Bill when I return from college road trip!
    Thanks for caring & giving your time & thoughts.

  7. It’s true, the artists/designers who do the work should definitely be compensated for their time, but maybe it could be structured a bit more like a barter agreement. Perhaps all the participating restaurants could get together to create a “food credit” program and instead of paying the artists/designers money (cash) that most of the restaurants probably don’t have available, they could issue a “food credit voucher” to each artist/designer, to be set at an agreed upon general amount, that could then be redeemed at any of the participating restaurants until the end of the calendar year. Just a thought.

  8. Figures! Just another entitled Tribecan who has lost sight of (or has no idea) who pioneered and created his safe, beautiful neighborhood. Art is clearly just a commodity to him, not a skill or a talent or anything of value. Just a means to keeping his convenient neighborhood restaurants open. “So nice to see neighbors helping neighbors”… Sooo clueless.

  9. I agree, artists aren’t a commodity. They should be compensated in some way for their efforts, they are struggling as well, much like the restaurants. Also not everyone who lives here can afford to donate time at this point, as many are working from home and juggling family. It was always very generous of restaurants to give their time and resources for school events, this is a separate issue. Perhaps if professional Artist can’t be compensated, then maybe artists could be students from Middle or High Schools who need practice and who don’t mind volunteering their talent. There are a lot of talented students out there.

  10. It’s just an ask. If you don’t want to do it then don’t.

  11. All of the thoughts and concerns above are appreciated. We had already taken most of them into consideration in the development of this effort. And we are iterating as we go.

    During this time, where the currency of cash is scarce, we each give of the currency that we have: Mine right now is time and energy. Artists’ are their passion and creativity. The restaurants’ are their food and hospitality.

    Many eager artists have reached out to us to volunteer, understanding that these times are different and community matters.

    The restaurants have all agreed to meal barter and we started a GoFundMe page to offset the expense of the artists’ supplies. An additional benefit for artists will be the showcasing of their work and the amplification of this effort via social media. No gallery fees, no agent fees, no cost beyond labor and materials for what I hope will be an effort for both restaurants and artists that is mutually beneficial.

    And all artists are welcome, including students and non-pros.

    This is a time to give what we can of what we have, be good neighbors to each other and help our neighborhood survive.

  12. Go Bill –
    Whatever people can do to support community and bring people together is so important during this time. This is phenomenal!