Believe in People, the street artist whose artwork has appeared throughout the Elm City, contributed a new, controversial painting to a historic cafe in the city’s Ninth Square neighborhood.
Although the artist announced his departure from town earlier this year, he contacted the owner of Cafe Nine — a brick coffee shop on the corner of State and Crown Streets famous for its title as the “musicians’ living room” — via Twitter to offer up a piece for installation. Painted on a broken door, the piece consists of a simple representation of a man’s face with two middle fingers pressed into his forehead.
According to Margaret, an employee at Cafe Nine who declined to offer her last name, the piece has received mixed reviews from customers. “Some people love it, some people hate it,” she said.
It took a while for the cafe’s staff to decide where to hang the painting, keeping the piece in the basement for a few weeks while they deliberated, Margaret said. They finally decided on a wall space between a Guinness board and a piece of Cafe Nine logo wall art, just to the left of the cafe’s main bar.
Sean Saxton, a part-time employee and customer at the cafe, said he thinks the piece is a great addition.
“It really adds to the feel of the place,” Saxton said, adding that he does not take offense to the pictured gesture. “You know when you’re just really angry and you put your hands over your face?” Sexton asked, mimicking the emotion as he spoke. “That’s what this guy’s doing. He’s just mad at himself.”
Saxton’s interpretation of the piece stands in contrast to that of many critics, including Margaret, who see the piece as a message to New Haven. Believe in People left town on somewhat uncertain terms — some residents view the piece as a flippant goodbye.
Still other residents appreciate the painting as an example of free public artwork.
“I think it’s positive that art is being situated in much less formal venues than museums and galleries,” Emmanuel Candor ’18 said. “Street art allows for more public access and exposure for people who might not spend an afternoon at one of the art museums here but nevertheless appreciate it.”
For his part, Believe in People cautioned against reading too much into the piece in an email to the New Haven Independent.
“[S]ometimes a crude, poorly-done line drawing with sentimental value is just a crude, poorly-done line drawing with sentimental value,” he said. “I gave away some things to friends and places I used to hang before I left. That was a broken door I used for a drafting table when I couldn’t afford one.”
Believe in People is best known for his various works around Yale as well as an Anne Frank mural on Crown Street and his infamous “SUPA-THUG” on State Street.