Hash Halper, Street Artist Who Adorned New York With Hearts, Dies at 41

Sometime round 2014, little hearts drawn in chalk mysteriously started showing on the streets of downtown Manhattan. Some materialized in clusters on sidewalks, whereas others cascaded alongside blocks. The hearts inevitably light away, however for New Yorkers who encountered them, they provided a respite from the harshness of metropolis life.

At least that was the intention of their creator, a avenue artist named Hash Halper, who began drawing the hearts as a gesture of affection for a girl he was relationship. The relationship didn’t final, however the hearts made him really feel higher, so he saved drawing them. Mr. Halper quickly started spreading the therapeutic properties of his hearts, calling himself New York Romantic.

“A heart makes you feel good when you’re not feeling good,” Mr. Halper advised Channel 7’s “Eyewitness News” in 2018. “And a heart makes you feel great when you’re feeling great.”

Mr. Halper, who grew to become a beloved fixture in neighborhoods like SoHo and the East Village, died on June 11. He was 41.

His mom, Hana Nancy Halper, mentioned he had jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge.

“When he was making those hearts, he was making New York into a storybook that we might all want to live in,” the author Lily Koppel, an in depth buddy, mentioned by telephone. “To him, New York seemed to be losing its soul, and he was trying to put back its soul, and in the end I think it wore him out.”

Shortly earlier than his dying, Mr. Halper, who was additionally a painter, had been getting ready for a solo exhibition at a venue on Hudson Street that may showcase his paintings. But, his household mentioned, his work have been destroyed throughout an altercation with somebody who attacked him in his Lower East Side condo. Rattled by the incident, he took to the streets and was seen two days later strolling barefoot in SoHo.

After his dying, individuals gathered at his favourite stoop on Prince Street to make a memorial with chalk hearts.

Tall and shaggy-haired, Mr. Halper may very well be seen carrying fashionable hats or a purple swimsuit lined in hearts whereas he planted himself on streets for hours, bringing his hearts into existence with items of pink, blue and yellow chalk and a swift swoop of his hand. Over time, he grew to become one thing of a downtown folks hero, cherished for his skill to conjure up positivity with a humble shard of chalk to an in any other case tumultuous metropolis.

Once, when he realized that a lady was having a tough time along with her romantic life, he started chalking hearts exterior her office; she met somebody particular just a few weeks later.

When cops would confronted him about his hand-drawn graffiti, he would ask them, “Why are you so upset about a heart?”

“A heart makes you feel good when you’re not feeling good,” Mr. Halper as soon as mentioned. “And a heart makes you feel great when you’re feeling great.”Credit…Kholood Eid for The New York Times

New Yorkers cheered Mr. Halper on for his defiantly bohemian way of life, however he harbored his personal struggles as an artist within the metropolis.

He grappled with sobriety. When he had jobs, he didn’t maintain them for lengthy. He was at occasions homeless and would sleep on the benches of Washington Square Park or the couches of pals. His household had paid his hire over the previous yr in an condo on Broome Street that he shared with roommates.

“He didn’t tell people that he was troubled because it was dissonant with his public persona,” his brother Omkar Lewis mentioned. “He was the heart guy, so he couldn’t reveal his problems to the world, because he was the guy carrying other people’s pain.”

Tzvi Mair Lewis was born on April, 21, 1980, in Philadelphia. His father, Eliot, labored as a private damage lawyer. His mom is a public-school trainer. A grandmother, Estelle Halper, was a celebrated ceramist who lived in Greenwich Village, and he took her final title when he found his inventive calling.

Heshy, as he was referred to as rising up, was raised with 5 siblings in an Orthodox Jewish family in Elkins Park, Pa. As a boy, his father drove him to Brooklyn to go to the Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters in Crown Heights, the place he listened to sermons from Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson. He moved to New York when he was 14 and attended Yeshiva University High School for Boys in Washington Heights. He studied historical past at Yeshiva University and graduated in 2002.

By his late 20s, he was calling himself Hash and had immersed himself within the metropolis’s downtown arts and nightlife scene. He curated underground artwork reveals and as soon as offered work with the artist Dash Snow exterior the brasserie Balthazar. One present he organized within the meatpacking district drew tons of of individuals, however was additionally traumatic and triggered a nervous breakdown, his mom mentioned. His household discovered him taking refuge at the synagogue of the Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters

“I wanted to get him out of New York,” his mom mentioned in a telephone interview. “I don’t think it was good for him, but he lived and breathed New York.”

Mr. Halper in 2019. Shortly earlier than his dying he had been getting ready for a solo exhibition of his paintings.Credit…Dominique Misrahi

Mr. Halper first started drawing hearts with markers on baggage for purchasers at Kossar’s Bagels & Bialys on the Lower East Side when he was working there in 2014. After that, he picked up a bit of chalk.

In addition to his mom and his brother Omkar, Mr. Halper is survived by his father; two different brothers, Asher and Mick Lewis; and two sisters, Sara and Este Lewis.

As of late, Mr. Halper had been extra severely pursuing his effective artwork, and his solo present was going to showcase a sequence of his work that includes coronary heart motifs. The present was canceled, however over the past yr, throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Halper heeded his name as New York Romantic with extra objective than ever.

On even the darkest days, he walked out into the lonesome East Village, and he started working. Over and over, chalking away in a flurry, he summoned tons of of hearts that illuminated the neighborhood.