Every year since 2015, New York City’s Public Artists in Residence (PAIR) program has selected a series of artists to work on pressing civic problems in creatively generative ways. This year, the compounding issues of systemic racism and the coronavirus pandemic have shed light on innumerable ways in which the city could improve, so it makes sense that the artists selected for this year’s residency are directly invested in coming up with novel solutions for residents. Artists Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya and Andre Wagner will work with the NYC Commission on Human Rights, Yazmany Arboleda will work with the NYC Civic Engagement Commission and Sophia Dawson will work with the NYC Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.
Specifically, each artist has drafted a creative project that they produce over the course of at least one year. Dawson’s efforts will focus on amplifying the voices of community members in Mott Haven who have had their lives disrupted by historic disinvestment. Phingbodhipakkiya, the child of Thai and Indonesian immigrants, will be creating augmented reality mobile apps that display community-focused artwork that directly confronts anti-Asian racism and xenophobia. Wagner will use photography to explore what will family look like during and after a global pandemic, and Arboleda will use his large-scale architectural work to connect different cultures.
“The NYC Public Artists in Residence program establishes a powerful connection between our city’s extraordinary community of artists, and the public agencies dedicated to serving New Yorkers,” Gonzalo Casals, the Cultural Affairs Commissioner, said in a statement. “This group of artists and agency partnerships will take aim at some of the profound, unprecedented changes and issues we’ve seen in the wake of the pandemic crisis, from glaring public health disparities to entrenched racial injustice.”
The residency, which is also known as the PAIR program, was directly inspired by artist Mierle Ukeles’ artist residency with the NYC Department of Sanitation in the late 1970s, which helped cement the idea that creativity and civic duty are inexorably intertwined.