GREENWICH VILLAGE, NY – Some knew him as Hash and others as Hesh. Many knew him as a New York romantic: the street artist who wrote over 100,000 chalk hearts on the city’s sidewalks and walls until his death on June 11, 2021.
Exactly a month later, family and friends gathered in Washington Square Park for the Hesh Halper memorial on a mild Sunday afternoon.
Halper’s loved ones hugged, held a silent meditation, handed chalk to committed passers-by, and remembered stories of the passionate and intrepid street artist who spread positive messages in New York City, but especially in his turf in Lower Manhattan’s Soho and East Village.
In the early afternoon, chalk hearts completely filled the Washington Square fountain area.
“I talked to him about the pandemic almost every night,” said his mother Hana, a holistic health trainer, at the memorial. “The other day Hesh said to me, ‘I draw hearts because I really care and want people to have more love in their lives.’ My son Hesh firmly believed that loving kindness is the way. Everyone needs more love, more kindness, more understanding and more forgiveness. His purpose in drawing hearts and pictures was to uplift mankind. ”
At the age of 41, Halper died after jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge. When Halper failed to show up for his planned exhibition on June 10 at the Triangle Loft in the Meatpacking District, there was cause for concern.
One of his closest friends and a fellow artist named Mo was one of the last to see Halper.
“So that he actually misses his show …” said Mo and fell silent. “We hung out on Wednesday I think. I was like, ‘He’s probably going to be late as always, but he’d definitely be there [art] Hanging time and he wasn’t there, I called the show and still couldn’t reach him. And he jumped the next day. “
Halper was buried in his hometown of Philadelphia, according to a close friend.
In an Instagram post, Art of Our Century released a statement about Halper, who held a solo exhibition at the art gallery last February.
A friend of Halper’s, who said she helped him get multiple paid gigs and helped with his social media, wrote to Patch about Halper but wanted to remain anonymous:
“I always told people about him because I was so impressed with his art,” she said.
âHe was so creative, but his art was so simple. His passion was to spread the message of love. Hash didn’t care about followers and likes or celebrity. He just had this incredible passion for art and all he wanted was to see people smile.
âHe was a pure artist, but had no desire to sell his art, he mainly only used chalk and only drew on the street.
‘… It was all about spreading his positive energy in all circumstances and trying to help our New Yorkers survive the world-changing event of Covid-19. “
On June 15th, shirts with the brand New York Romantic were on display in the Triangle Loft.
Halper’s Facebook page tells the story of an artist who loved to share his works of art, spread positivity in turbulent times, and judge worldly matters – from Black Lives Matter and the assassination of George Floyd to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and tributes to the tribes of the nation suffered from First.
“He let the pain of current events go through him,” said Mo. “Not that he was excited in a depressed state, but he would say I don’t work hard enough. And that led to the big huge heart [on] the sidewalk and the streets he started doing recently for the past two or three years.
âThere is a closing point in the artist world where after you’ve done your thing, you have no choice but to grow up. And he did everything he should as a New York artist. “
Halper is perhaps best known for his ubiquitous chalk hearts – he was profiled by– and often drove by the hundreds on streets, sidewalks and walls in one train. Halper also expressed his romantic interpretations of falling stars, fireworks, time, dreams and peace.
In a May article by Jose Fresan, Halper shared his reason for drawing all those chalk hearts: a woman he fell in love with.
“MSB. He would mark her initials anywhere – MSB, MSB, “said Mo.” It came from a broken heart. As a romantic, he has regretted it most. But it turned into a very interesting type of catcall, huh? “
A post on Halper’s Facebook page with his artwork – a red heart boldly painted over a black surface – is accompanied by the caption: âMy first love, first friend, broke up because she said I was too deep . “
“He had more of a connection with the women in his life,” added Mo. “He would say, ‘Women have always been romantic.'”
Halper has curated artwork and exhibited his own in places like Village Works, the Bushwick Generator, and Art of Our Century, where he featured 200 oil paintings of his branded hearts. His debut show entitled “Old York Road” was on.
âHe’s been arrested countless times, and once after his arrest he said, ‘Well, these guys may own the buildings, but they don’t own the streets. I will own the streets.
“He also had an artistic element in his work, studying with countless artists and learning from countless artists,” said Mo. “And he was just perfecting his color palette and taking it off the street and into the visual arts.”
Last May, Halper wrote in a Facebook post that he was collecting photos of his works of art for a book.
On June 2, a statement was posted on the artist’s Facebook page stating, “Though difficult, I remain devoted to drawing from the heart. Keep the #dream of #love romantic. We all want recognition or appreciation for our life and our work. “
The last post on the page was created on Jul 28, 2020: “Would you like chalk art / hearts for your business / restaurant / cafe / event or to send a birthday wish or anniversary!?! Affordable prices, guaranteed stores and good vibration!”
Close friends mourn the loss of someone they saw as an “empath” and “lightworker”.
“That’s just another reason it’s hard to swallow,” said Mo. “He was so connected to his spirituality that I just can’t imagine him doing anything like that.”
Friends and family are already in the process of erecting a permanent memorial to pay homage to the late artist.
According to Halper’s fundraiser, Halper leaves behind his mother, Hana Nan Halper, his father, Eliot Lewis, and five siblings – Mick, Omkar, Asher, Este, and Sara.
Halper’s family will not speak out during this period of mourning.
Below are photos – and a video of the Fountain of All Chalk Hearts – of the Sunday Memorial to Hesh / Hash Halper in Washington Square Park: