For more than four decades, the Public Art Fund has been bringing the world's most renowned creative forces to the people of New York City, both locals and visitors alike. Through ambitious free exhibitions, the public is given the opportunity to experience art and the urban landscape in a powerful way. This initiative is part of a larger effort to ensure equitable distribution of artistic and cultural opportunities across all five boroughs, as outlined in the CreateNYC process. The Grand Lady of New York, Doris Freedman, was the one who initiated this project.
Her goal was to use and illuminate the walls of half-demolished buildings that had become a common sight in the city during the recessionary 1970s. She was inspired by Mierle Laderman Ukeles' pioneering work for the New York City Department of Sanitation. The PAIR program allows artists to collaborate with municipal agencies and create long-term community impact. CreateNYC outlines a vision for New York City's future that celebrates all its citizens' voices, experiences, and values.
To this end, four monumental artificial waterfalls were installed at four sites along the waterfront. During the CreateNYC participation process, residents asked for an expansion of public art beyond site-specific installations, to include participatory art and programming in public spaces with community involvement. Elmgreen & Dragset made a bold statement when they transformed Rockefeller Center in New York by adding a vertical pool to the 5th Avenue entrance of the pedestrian plaza. As the city continues to grapple with its controversial historic monuments, “Art in The Open” presents a strong case for New York's contemporary public art program.
This program continues to grow, disseminate, interfere and contribute to ever-evolving dialogue throughout the city. Vibrant public spaces can serve as powerful drivers of local economic development and a better quality of life for residents, creating thriving neighborhoods in New York City.