With 50 artworks on 500 bus shelters across NYC’s 5 boroughs, Art on the Grid
is Public Art Fund’s biggest collaboration with JCDecaux to date. This spring, as life was dramatically altered by the ongoing pandemic and growing social movement, Public Art Fund invited 50 emerging NY-based artists to a rapid response organization. The resulting artworks reflect on themes of reconnection and renewal, react to moments of intimacy, spontaneity, loss, and recovery, and imagine a collective future that is more inclusive, just, and equitable.
With a longstanding relationship to New York and as a leader in the public art scene, Public Art Fund saw a responsibility in this moment to help the city’s struggling arts community. As cultural institutions closed and current and future jobs cancelled, many in the creative field have been left jobless. Their solution, Art on the Grid
, not only provides artists with a platform for creativity and financial compensation, but a connection to the wider community of New York City when much of its population is isolated.
Placement of these artworks across all 5 boroughs was key to Public Art Fund’s conceptualization of this exhibition. During stay-at-home orders, many city residents were primarily confined to their neighborhoods, leaving for walks, grocery shopping, and other short trips to limit COVID exposure; broad coverage of NYC was key to ensuring as many people had the chance to interact with these artists as possible. Whenever possible, Public Art Fund aimed to place pieces in locations that relate back to the work. Rafael Domenech’s Peripheral poem 68 (countermonument pavilion)
, which reads “without community there is no liberation” was included on a placement outside of the United Nations.
More than ever, the pandemic reminds us of the therapeutic nature of human expression and warmth of physical touch, as these sources of closeness and comfort are limited by necessary safety measures. Sharon Madanes’s Pulse
reflects the desire for closeness, comfort, and touch despite the new need for safety barriers to keep patients and doctors safe. Reflecting on her own experiences as both an artist and a doctor, “Pulse” illustrates a moment providing comfort even through a mask and gloves.
In order for Art on the Grid to be responsive to the city’s situation as it changed, Public Art Fund invited artists in two phases, 10 on display on June 29th
and 40 more on July 27th
. By late July, the tragic death of George Floyd and resulting protests dramatically changed the world the artists were responding to. Public Art Fund expanded the scope of this exhibition to allow artists room to comment on protests, systemic racism, and the urgent need for reform. One such response is Window
by Esteban Jefferson. His artist statement reads: “I’m interested in small and personal forms of resistance, and that’s what I saw in this window. Black lives matter.”
To quote Katerina Stathopoulo, one of this exhibition’s curators, Art on the Grid “reminds us that in times of adversity, artistic expression is indispensable to the creation of a culture that really reflects and responds to our contemporary world. Public Art Fund and JCD believe that public art has the ability to have an impact on society.”
Photography by Nicholas Knight, Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY. Additional artwork credits can be found on their website