Times Square Arts and For Freedoms Look to the Future with New Public Art Campaign

Times Square Arts and ForFreedoms are pleased to partner once more to present Messages for the City: Dreaming Forward, a new iteration of the collaborative public art campaign, Messages for the City, that has been on view in Times Square and throughout NYC since April. Beginning December 18, the public art campaign appeared on Big Belly receptasigns in over 120 locations across the Times Square district.

As a year full of unprecedented challenges comes to a close and a new one begins, Messages for the City continues its promise of amplifying artist voices and broadcasting them directly to the public. In Messages for the City: Dreaming Forward, eight artists reflect on our collective futures. United in Times Square, these works are meditative declarations and interrogations that remind us to pause, reflect, and ready ourselves for work that lies ahead. All messages speak to the respective artist’s desires and intentions for the future — they consider love, freedom, coexistence, and inclusive representation, and serve as prompts for the continued responsibility we share in shaping our world together.

“We believe in the legacy of Times Square as a space for creative expression, civic engagement, and the communication of big ideas. Throughout 2020, we’ve worked with For Freedoms to amplify artists’ voices across all of the public platforms we have access to. Messages for the City has become an ongoing means for channeling gratitude, solidarity, and urgent calls to action out to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers that come through this district each day,” said Times Square Arts Director Jean Cooney. “As the year comes to an end, this campaign proposes a moment of reflection and looks towards our future as a collective whole.”

Artists include Sadie Barnette, Brandan B-Mike Odums, Jun Mabuchi, Sofía Gallisá Muriente, Jon Santos, Hank Willis Thomas, Alisha B. Wormsley, and Amelia Winger-Bearskin

Left: Sadie Barnette. Right: Hank Willis Thomas. Photos by Ian Douglas. Courtesy of Times Square Arts.

“It’s been an honor to collaborate with Times Square Arts on Messages for the City throughout 2020. Our previous iterations of this campaign spoke directly to essential workers, recognizing them for their tireless work as the rest of us remained quarantined inside our homes. This series of images, all part of the For Freedoms billboards campaigns, broadens the audience. We hope that these messages of love, self-care, coexistence, and representation will guide each of us as we imagine and create where we go from here,” said For Freedoms Creative Producer Taylor Brock.

This ongoing public art campaign — which began at the initial peak of the COVID-19 pandemic as a partnership between Times Square Arts, For Freedoms, Poster House and Print Magazine — has invited over 40 artists including Jenny Holzer, Carrie Mae Weems, Christine Wong Yap, Duke Riley, Mel Chin, Pedro Reyes, and Milton Glaser,  to create public service announcements and messages of solidarity and gratitude to New Yorkers across the city. At the time, images of an empty Times Square had become emblematic of how swiftly public life shifted. Now months later, amidst concurrent crises struck by racial injustices and a historic U.S. presidential election, Times Square and other organizations have returned to public spaces as sites of protest, political action, and creative expression. Dreaming Forward speaks directly to the needs of such a moment and invites us to see ourselves through the eyes of these artists. 

About Times Square Arts
Times Square Arts, the public art program of the Times Square Alliance, collaborates with contemporary artists and cultural institutions to experiment and engage with one of the world’s most iconic urban places. Through the Square’s electronic billboards, public plazas, vacant areas and popular venues, and the Alliance’s own online landscape, Times Square Arts invites leading contemporary creators, such as Mel Chin, Tracey Emin, Jeffrey Gibson, Ryan McGinley, Yoko Ono, and Kehinde Wiley, to help the public see Times Square in new ways. Times Square has always been a place of risk, innovation and creativity, and the Arts Program ensures these qualities remain central to the district’s unique identity. 

Generous support of Times Square Arts is provided in part by the National Endowment for the Arts; by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Visit www.timessquarenyc.org/arts for more information. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @TSqArts.

About For Freedoms
Founded in 2016 by artists Hank Willis Thomas, Eric Gottesman, Michelle Woo and Wyatt Gallery, For Freedoms began as an investigation into how art can shape ideas, attitudes and democratic institutions in American society. For Freedoms believes in the vital role of culture and transforming our social and political systems; and that citizenship is defined by participation, not by ideology. Through anti-partisan nationwide programming, they use art as a vehicle to deepen public discussions on civic issues and core values, In essence, For Freedoms is a hub for artists, partner organizations, and citizens who want to be more engaged in public life.

In 2018, For Freedoms launched the 50 State Initiative, the largest creative collaboration in U.S. history. As part of this historic campaign, they reinterpreted Rockwell’s Four Freedoms, creating photographs that visualize the variety of American identities through the participation of over 100 activists, scholars, and artists. From the cover of Time magazine and the New York Times to hundreds of exhibitions, installations, and town halls, For Freedoms used art to deepen public discussions of our nation’s core issues and values, and to advocate for equality, dialogue, and civic engagement. The 2020 campaign focus is on not only increasing voter engagement, but a longer-term vision of a great Awakening centered around Healing, Justice and Listening, the new “Four Freedoms”.

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