A child enjoys helping Mangrum with his work.

A child enjoys helping Joe Mangrum with his work outside of MAD. (all images by the author for Hyperallergic)

I stopped by the Museum of Arts and Design to see the public section of the show Swept Away taking place on the sidewalks surrounding the museum with Tibetan mandala-esque street art by Joe Mangrum. The work was quick, child-like, but fun to stumble across on your way to work.

Joe Mangrum's work for Swept Away at MAD.

“They’re very cool, very happy looking” a biker named Elissa emphatically told me after pausing to watch while on her way to work. Another bystander, a photographer named Manolo Gamboa, was excited to see Mangrum work, “I came here to see him, I’m a big fan, I love to record street art.” Right after he said this we both cringed as a bike road right through one of the works. Made of sand, the works are easily disturbed in this busy walkway. Gamboa was familiar with the fickle nature of Mangrum’s work. “I saw him working down at Occupy Wall Street, but it rained right after,” he said. I hope rain won’t wash these works away tonight.

Mangrum's work slowly disappearing

Mangrum’s work slowly disappearing

This ephemerality is a hard, yet exciting aspect of art on the street. “But it is also the draw,” Elissa adds, “the art has to stay with you in memory, so you have to really look.” Although the work was by no means of the best quality but it was a beautiful summer day, what a pleasant surprise to stumble upon someone creating art in the streets. I am glad MAD took this step, to put art right outside its doors for more to enjoy.

Joe Mangrum will be creating sidewalk designs Friday, June 8 from 8am–9pm and Saturday, June 9 from 8:30am–8pm at the Museum of Arts and Design (2 Columbus Circle, Columbus Circle, Manhattan) as part of their Swept Away: Dust, Ashes, and Dirt in Contemporary Art and Design, which continues through August 12, 2012. 

Ben Valentine is an independent writer living in Cambodia. Ben has written and spoken on art and culture for SXSW, Salon, SFAQ, the Los Angeles Review of Books, YBCA, ACLU, de Young Museum, and the Museum...