Painting La Mama

Millions of rooftops in America are made of tar, and they absorb an enormous amount of heat during the summer months. White Roof Project covers rooftops solar-reflective white coating, immediately reducing temperatures inside and out. 

JCPE.jpgWhite roofs are cost effective, cut carbon emissions, reduce our risk of ‘brown-outs’ by reducing stress on the power grid during peak summer months, and save millions in energy costs. White Roof Projectidentifies rooftops, organizes volunteers to paint them, fundscommunity initiatives, and builds awareness in cities.

It was early in the morning on one of the hottest days in NYC when we went up to paint La Mama, a historic theater on the Bowery. It’s one of many rooftops we’ve painted for the past year. We’ve been working with the Lower East Side community to find solutions to our City’s energy usage and climate change problems. Conservation efforts in this thriving neighborhood could reduce stress on our power grid more than any other neighborhood in New York State. The LES needs our help, after all, it is the heaviest energy user in the city, so our efforts there get you more ‘bang for your buck’ every time a roof is coated white.

One thing that amazes me is how much the ambient temperature in a building can change so significantly through this simple action. I can say from experience that the top floor of the buildings we’ve coated are quite cool. We’ve measured the temperature inside the building on 94 degree day, and inside it was 80 degrees. We did not even need to turn the A/C on and I think that’s pretty miraculous. Compare that with the inside of a building with a black rooftop, 105 degrees.

A New York simulation assumed a 50% adoption of cool roofs on available roof space and ran models to evaluate the temperature changes. The model predicted a city wide temperature reduction of 0.3°F.


La MaMa is an arts institution with a worldwide reputation for producing daring work in theatre, dance, performance art, and music that defies form and transcends boundaries of language, race, and culture. Founded in 1961 by theatre pioneer Ellen Stewart, La MaMa is a vital part of the fabric of cultural life in New York City and around the world. The concept of an ‘artistic home’ is at the center of La MaMa’s mission. We support artists by providing a place where creative experimentation is embraced, which allows artists to take the risks that lead to groundbreaking work.


La MaMa produces between 50-60 productions annually, most of which are world premieres. Over its 50-year history, La MaMa has presented more than 3,200 productions with over 150,000 artists from around the world. La MaMa’s Lower East Side campus comprises three historic buildings and two condo spaces that together house three theatres, an art gallery, rehearsal studios, production studios, an artist dormitory, and an extensive archive documenting the history of Off-Off Broadway. La MaMa’s annual programs include: the La MaMa Moves! dance festival, the La MaMa Puppet Series, The Beat Box Festival, The Experiments Play Reading Series, The Poetry Electric Series, The Coffeehouse Chronicles, and art exhibitions in La MaMa La Galleria. La MaMa is also exploring long-distance learning and artistic collaboration with its partner Culturehub, founded in 2009 by La MaMa and the Seoul Institute of the Arts. Culturehub is an incubator for creativity using telepresence technology.


Close up on the paint


All of us coat La Mama together


Phoebe getting down to business


Paul cracks open a second drum of paint


cake of paint frosting


The white paint difference



cutting the edges


At the end of the day we create simple, tangible change in our city by activating in our community and getting our hands covered in white paint. This summer you can save 40% on your summer energy bills by painting your rooftop a solar-reflective white coating, immediately reducing temperatures inside and out. White roofs are cost effective, cut carbon emissions, reduce our risk of ‘brown-outs’ by reducing stress on the power grid during peak summer months, and save millions in energy costs. Be a part of the movement by coating your own roof with our easy-to-read Do It Yourself Guide. This simple step towards sustainability is comparatively cheap and easy to complete on your own.

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