New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan today announced ARTfarm, a new installation that enhances the look and feel of a step street at 180 E. 165th Street and Carroll Place in the Bronx, and which is part of an artwork series through DOT's Urban Art Program pARTners track. Conceived and built by architects Valeria Bianco, Christian Gonsalves, Shagun Singh and Justin Taylor, in association with Architecture for Humanity (AfH ny STUDIO) and in partnership with the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the piece is composed of 59 planters made from recycled materials such as wooden cabinet doors and crates arranged along the step street. The planters feature plants that instantly brighten the site and transform the concrete structure into an eye-catching living sculpture and attractive public space. Commissioner Sadik-Khan joined Holly Block, Executive Director of the Bronx Museum of the Arts, and AfH ny STUDIO's Valeria Bianco at ARTfarm for a dedication ceremony to thank the architects, volunteers and community partners who designed and installed the project over the spring and summer.
"From concrete step streets to chain link fences on ordinary street corners, we're bringing art to streetscapes citywide to redefine these in-between spaces, said Commissioner Sadik-Khan. "With the help of our local partners, New Yorkers are rediscovering slices of neighborhoods near and far through colorful artwork that makes these places more attractive, welcoming destinations for everyone."
AfH ny STUDIO drew inspiration for ARTfarm from the nearby farmers' market and transformed the step street into a multi-tiered garden. The designers and team of volunteers built planters from material found at Rebuilder's Source and donated items to create the installation. The group worked closely with the Bronx Museum of the Arts, located around the corner, to host a workshop for local school children and community members to paint many of the medium-sized planters. The garden will remain in place for up to 11 months and will be maintained by AfH ny STUDIO, the Bronx Museum of the Arts and local residents. For its part, DOT assisted with the coordination of the site, including rehabilitating the step street by filling minor cracks in the sidewalk, relaying cobblestones, weeding, fixing the columns and repairing the railing. As a pARTners project, the designers received $5,000 in funding from the Urban Art Program.
"The steps have been a fantastic project and a great collaboration", said Holly Block, Executive Director, Bronx Museum of the Arts. "We are so excited about linking these steps with the Bronx Museum 's future Youth Garden as well."
"ARTfarm highlights the potential of design as advocacy, said Matt Charney, Managing Director, Architecture for Humanity NY. "AFHny volunteers were able to use their design skills to envision and create a unique public space for the city."
"ARTfarm has been an incredible experience for me and everyone on the team, said Valeria Bianco, design consultant and AFHny Studio Coordinator, and an architect of the installation. "It allowed us to work together in a rare and meaningful way. Most of us come from varied design backgrounds and often tend to envision concepts on computer screens and sign off execution to others. ARTfarm, while undeniably challenging, gave us the opportunity to see first hand the change in the community it regards, for which I am both grateful and proud."
"ARTfarm started as an art installation and quickly became a community based project, said Shagun Singh, design consultant and AFHny Studio Coordinator, and a contributing architect on this project. "Financial, logistical and volunteer help came from a diverse pool of people and organizations. This project is an exercise in collaboration, optimism and goodwill. We hope to get as much help in maintaining ARTfarm as we got in conceptualizing and creating it."
ARTfarm joins several other recently installed urban art pieces developed with assistance from the pARTners program track. Maize Field, produced in partnership with the Boreum Hill Association and artist Christina Kelly, is an innovative installation located at "Bergen" and Smith streets in Brooklyn composed of a corn field surrounded by a granite wall that adds seating. Mall-terations, completed in partnership with the Hester Street Collaborative and architects Carolina Cisneros, Marcelo Ertorteguy, Mateo Pinto and Sara Valente, similarly revives the streetscape through art with painted benches made from recycled wood and other materials and imagery painted on three malls along Allen Street in Manhattan.
These and the agency's other urban art projects to enhance public space through art and improved street design build on DOT's larger World Class Streets initiative. This effort reflects the agency's ongoing work to recreate the public realm by recasting streets and sidewalks of "New York City" as safer, more inviting, attractive destinations for everyone.
The Urban Art Program, founded in October 2008, partners with community organizations and nonprofits to install murals, sculptures and other art forms in plazas and on medians, triangles, sidewalks, jersey barriers and construction fences for up to 11 months on DOT properties citywide. Organizations or organization-artist teams are invited to apply to one of three Urban Art Program tracks – pARTners, Site to Site and Arterventions – that offer the public new ways to view and experience city streets through art. For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/dot.