image of street artist hans honschar

Hans Honschar draws his work on sidewalks and store windows, sometimes in exchange for cash or food.

“All work is a form of prayer,” Hans Honschar said to a stranger.

“Friendship is the highest art,” he told someone else.

“Happy New Hair!”

The street artist was talking to passersby on a recent Friday night, his clarion voice offering encouragement to nearly everyone he came across, as I raced to follow him on foot around Manhattan.

Hans Honschar’s uplifting messages — drawn in colorful, erasable chalk on the sidewalk — should be a familiar sight to New Yorkers, especially residents of the Upper West Side. His orders are cheerful: “You are Love(d),” “Fulfill your Purpose” and “You got this.” In person, Honschar embodies every bit of this outlook. What I’d thought would be a simple afternoon interview turned into an unpredictable night of art and adventure as we raced from the Upper West Side to Midtown and back.

Our first destination was the Museum of Modern Art, which offers free admission on Friday nights. It was very crowded inside, but Honschar’s pace hardly slowed — and the random comments to strangers didn’t stop.

“When you wear red, you give other people energy,” he told a woman in a bright red sweater.

“There will be door-keepers in heaven,” he said to a security guard — and to just about every doorman we passed on the street.

Like a manic Jack Nicholson character, Honschar’s cracks come off as sometimes ironic and often funny. When we passed the famous Dakota apartment building, where John Lennon once lived, Honschar sang, “Imagine there’s no pizza!”

image of artist hans honschar on street in new york

Honschar has lived all over New York, but “My day doesn’t really begin until I get to the Upper West Side,” he says.

Yet basically everything he says is positive. When I finally got Honschar to sit down and talk, he exuded the intense sincerity of someone fulfilling a long-held dream.

The 44-year-old grew up in Tampa, FL, which he calls his “starter-kit New York,” because the Yankees hold spring training there. He’d wanted to come to New York since he was a teenager, inspired by  an idol of his, Keith Haring, whose bold, colorful drawings in the public spaces of 1980s New York blurred the line between high art and graffiti.

“I love New York and I love New Yorkers,” Honschar says. “There are probably two billion people right now who are just dying to get here. New York is almost a drug. It amplifies you.”

image of hans honschar with keith haring ceiling

Honschar under a work by his hero, Keith Haring.

One of his favorite messages to write on sidewalks is a quote from the late New York City Mayor Ed Koch: “I wake up every morning and say to myself: ‘Well, I’m still in New York. Thank you, God.’”

Honschar arrived in 2012, and started writing his empowering messages in Washington Square Park. Soon after, a friend brought him to Strawberry Fields in Central Park. When he got hungry, Honschar walked out of the park and discovered the Upper West Side. It was the beginning of a love affair.

Today, after stints in Jersey City and in the Upper West Side, Honschar lives in the Bronx. But, “My day doesn’t really begin until I get to the Upper West Side,” he says. After we’d taken in some Picassos at MOMA, Honschar brought me on a tour of his own creations, which are spread across store windows, sidewalks, and easel signs in the Upper West Side. As I followed him, it became clear that he knew all the store owners or managers by name. Some were happy to see him. Others seemed less excited by Honschar’s bottomless exuberance.

image of street artist hans honschar writing in a store

For Honschar and his erasable markers, any blank space is an opportunity.

While his work has a certain 1960s optimism to it, the man is no lazy hippie. Honschar has working relationships with numerous stores and companies, and charges between $10 and $80 to write messages on signs, windows or the sidewalk, depending on the size. He’s done work for websites like the Knot and; even large institutions, like NYU and Carnegie Hall, have hired him to liven up outdoor events with his sidewalk drawings.

Honschar also has barter relationships where he’ll write promotional messages, like “Happy Hour Special,” in exchange for food or art materials. And sometimes he’ll pen welcoming words on a store window for free, just because he wants to.

image of hans honschar sidewalk art

Making public art that washes away in the rain takes some consideration. Honschar pays close attention to the weather, to make sure he creates his paid messages when there will be clear skies for at least a full workday. And though Keith Haring and Bansky are now exalted, being a street artist isn’t without challenges. Honschar was arrested in March 2016 for drawing his signature heart flower on a subway information board, though the ink was erasable. The cops took 29 of his markers, but Honschar was undeterred, especially after the story was written up in The New York Times. “Haring was arrested a number of times,” he says, proudly.

The wide range of commissions for Honschar’s work testifies to his innate, perhaps irrepressible skill as a marketer. “Never forgo the opportunity to write your hashtag,” he told me, as he added “#hhny” to a “Thank you” he’d written on an empty space inside a liquor store. His Instagram account, @Honschar, has 4,550 followers.

image of hans honschar image on storefront window

Even if you somehow miss seeing Honschar on the sidewalk, chances are you’ll hear him coming. Returning to the Upper West Side from MOMA, we made a brief stop at the New York Historical Society so he could show me a mural by Keith Haring on the lobby ceiling.

Honschar got into the building quickly, but I was stopped for a bag check. As the security guard looked through my things, she asked, “Why is he shouting?” I hesitated for a moment and then said, “He’s an artist.”

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