If you were anywhere near Times Square this weekend, there was no missing it: a giant, pulsing rainbow heart wrapped around the exterior of the Edition Hotel on 47th Street and Seventh Avenue. Every six minutes, it appeared—a shot of happiness and joy in a neon landscape of commercialism.
If you're native to the city—or of any major metropolitan area, in fact—you've likely seen the symbol before. On street signs and bike racks. In stores and bar windows. On street poles and outside of construction sites. Mailboxes and bus stops. Any place and every place, really.
Meet the Spread Love Project by Nicholas Konert, which launched in 2016 and has slowly overtaken a number of cities one rainbow-heart sticker at a time—just check out its Instagram and hashtag (#spreadloveproject) to see the reach. The message? To knock down bias with love; replace prejudice with LGBTQ pride. Here, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising and in the lead-up to the New York City Pride Parade on June 30th, we talk to Konert, an artist and designer, about his mission to, well, spread love.
Spread Love Project by Nicholas Konert is...
A global initiative started in 2016 to serve as an iconic reminder for people everywhere to spread love without restriction, reason or reward. We believe spreading love today is more important than ever.
And the goal...
Spread love and random acts of kindness. Break down barriers. Bring people together. Be a tool for opening people's hearts to one another. Help people see love. Raise money to support communities and organizations, through collaborations and partnerships. Combat hate with love.
What's behind the decision to take it to the streets, guerrilla style?
It started this way actually. Literally, within the first 24 hours of designing the heart, it was appearing on the streets on New York City. I've always believed art and design should be accessible. Artist and activist Keith Haring has always been a key inspiration in my life and work. I'm so inspired when I give a sticker to someone I meet, and they say "I see your heart everywhere," "I've always wondered who created this" or "My kid has one on their bedroom wall!"
At this point I've printed over 85,000 stickers, so the reach and project is much larger than myself. The stickers are such a great way to spread the message globally. It is heartwarming to know people have a relationship with my work even though we don't know each other (yet). Since trademarking the design and collaborating with brands, the heart can now be found in stores (not only the streets), which is a fun evolution for the project.
How far has the project gone?
Thanks to friends, collaborations, partnerships and the public… the heart has spread more places than I know. Some places that come to mind: New York City, Tokyo, Paris, Berlin, Lisbon, London, Taipei, Cape Town, Los Angeles, Shanghai, Milan and Laramie, Wyoming (home to Matthew Shepard), at marches, store windows, on cars, projected at clubs, on advertisements, at restaurants...
Favorite places where you've seen them?
There are so many special moments. To be honest, spotting someone pushing their kid's stroller with my heart on it is equally as gratifying and inspiring as a celebrity moment. I love seeing how kids play with them, where they place them—kids are so free spirited, you know? A lot of kids wear them as superhero/Wonder Woman cuffs, which I think is so cool.
And it is hilarious and always fun when friends send me paparazzi pics of celebs, like Bella Hadid or Leonardo DiCaprio, on the streets of New York with the hearts appearing in the background. Recently, the heart appeared in the final scene of the series of Broad City on Comedy Central. That was special moment, as it was the final episode from a show and features a cast I love. The heart also recently appeared in the Melissa McCarthy film, Can You Ever Forgive Me?—you can see it in the scene that takes place at Julius' on West 10th. A historic institution in the city, it's one of my favorite bars in NYC, and has supported the project since the beginning in 2016.
When you spot a heart in the wild, the first thing that comes to mind is...
The time is now! Be present. God. Love. How magical life is…. These thoughts come to mind, and then a smile comes across my face. :D
All images and artwork © Nicholas Konert; the Spread Love heart is a registered trademark of Nicholas Konert
Spread love without restriction, reason or reward.