Press Releases

The NYC Civic Engagement Commission, Department of CUltural Affairs, The Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City, and Public Artist in Residenze Yazmany Arboleda Roll Out "The People's Festival"

For Immediate Release: August 18, 2021

Contact: Leslie Brown, NYC Civic Engagement Commission;
Contact: Ryan Max, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs;
Contact: Madeline Neuberger, The Mayor's Fund to Advance NY;

Aerial view of a city street

NYC's Civic Engagement Commission - with its first Public Artist in Residence Yazmany Arboleda - is excited to launch The People's Festival, a five borough tour of art, performances, resources, and community engagement from August 20 through September 5.

New York - On Friday August 20, the NYC Civic Engagement Commission (CEC), Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA), the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City and Public Artist in Residence (PAIR) Yazmany Arboleda officially kick off The People's Festival. This five borough series of outdoor events in neighborhoods hardest hit by the pandemic will celebrate New Yorkers' resilience with live performances, interactive workshops, and community information and resources. A full list of dates and locations can be found below.

The festival is anchored by The People's Bus, a retired city bus formerly used to transport people detained on Rikers Island, that has been transformed with input from New Yorkers into a community center on wheels to engage people in NYC's civic life through beauty and joy. The People's Bus will be joined at each stop by the Ice Cream Truck of Rights, a new and artistic take on the traditional ice cream truck that will provide free ice cream while creatively educating the recipients about their housing, immigration, labor and voting rights. At each festival stop these vehicles will also be complimented by an array of additional resources being provided by arts organizations, government agencies, community groups, and neighborhood leaders.

"We are proud to partner with The People's Bus and Festival to co-create climate actions, plans, and policies with 8.8 million New Yorkers on environmental justice issues that impact their daily lives and the equitable investments in their neighborhoods. "It is crucial that we educate, empower, and inspire New Yorkers to be active participants in their communities, economies, and elections. The People's Festival is bringing New Yorkers together and tapping into the transformative power of art to make Democracy inclusive and government accessible," said Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives J. Phillip Thompson

"Civic engagement doesn't have to be out of reach or boring. The People's Festival celebrates the power of art to heal and bring joy to all communities, particularly as the City recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. The transformation of The People's Bus, and of public space through The People's Festival, shows that a successful and just recovery in New York City requires connecting with people directly in their neighborhoods, particularly those who have historically been underserved and overlooked. It is only by deep listening and coming together that we can emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic as a City that is truly for all, said Dr. Sarah Sayeed, Chair & Executive Director of the New York City Civic Engagement Commission

"For Democracy to be sustainable it must prioritize the role that beauty and joy play in all parts of city governance. The People's Bus is a gymnasium for the human imagination–now more than ever, we must create spaces where our communities can practice imagining our collective future–a future that takes care of all living creatures" said Yazmany Arboleda, Public Artist in Residence with the NYC Civic Engagement Commission

"From civic engagement to creative expression, The People's Festival is a celebration of what makes our communities strong and vital," said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Gonzalo Casals. "We're thrilled that City Artist Corps, which is dedicated to supporting artists while enriching our city with creative programming, will help make The People's Festival a dynamic, engaging public art experience as it rolls across the five boroughs. Through this festival and the visionary People's Bus project, Yazmany Arboleda and our partners at the Civic Engagement Commission are bringing to life the sort of dynamic, creative exchange that our Public Artists in Residence program seeks to foster."

People's Festival Events

For additional information, visit NYC Participate

Borough Date Location Day Streets
Brooklyn 8/20 Albee Square Friday Fulton Mall and Albee Square West
Brooklyn 8/22 Marcy Avenue Plaza Sunday Marcy Ave. between MacDonough St. and Fulton
Staten Island 8/27 Minthorne Street Friday Between Bay St. and Victory Blvd.
Queens 8/29 34th Avenue between 93rd and 94th Street in Jackson Heights Sunday 93-11 34th Ave.
Manhattan 9/3 Plaza de las Américas Friday 651 West 175th St. between Wadsworth and St. Nicholas
Bronx 9/5 Fordham Plaza Sunday Webster Ave. at East Fordham Rd

Mujeres en Movimiento - a group of undocumented women artists and activists who participated the first PAIR residency in 2015 - and Materials for the Arts have been core partners on the "People's Sistine Chapel." Utilizing over one million recycled and donated beads from Materials for the Arts - a creative reuse program operated by the Department of Cultural Affairs - more than 20 members of the Mujeres have created the beaded interior ceiling of the bus, in collaboration with the People's Fellows. The People's Bus "Rainbow Chrome" exterior finish is an homage to pioneering artist Mierle Ukeles Laderman, who inspired the NYC Public Artists in Residence program and in 1983 created a mirrored garbage truck titled "The Social Mirror" so that New Yorkers could see themselves in relationship to their waste and the people who handle it. Her work has centered around the role of the artist and our social relationship to maintenance, service work, and most importantly workers who perform these essential, everyday tasks. The hope is that all NYC residents can see themselves, their neighbors, and their community reflected in The People's Bus. Creative assets on this collaborative process may be found here.

These events will build off the themes of civic engagement, knowing your rights, economic empowerment, food security, climate justice, and mental health & well-being. Development of these themes, of the Festival, and of the bus' transformation were done in collaboration with New Yorkers, in particular The People's Fellows, a cohort of youth leaders from throughout NYC that joined the CEC this summer. Artists participating in The People's Festival are being supported by City Artist Corps recovery funding. Announced by the Mayor de Blasio and DCLA earlier this year, City Artist Corps is a $25 million program that is providing critical relief to NYC-based artists, while supporting opportunities for them to engage with New Yorkers through public programming in all five boroughs. More information is available at

The Civic Engagement Commission was created in 2018 through a Mayoral Charter Revision Commission and citywide vote. CEC's Mission is to enhance civic participation in order to increase civic trust and strengthen democracy in New York City. The Commission is committed to engaging and listening to communities, while lifting up the voices of all New Yorkers, particularly the underserved and marginalized.

"We are excited to have our NY Project Hope providers participate in such an exciting event across NYC, we look forward to providing New Yorkers with valuable resources and crisis counseling services that are so vital and necessary to our communities," said Alex A. Gomez, MS CCP Director, NY Project Hope

"Agencie is thrilled to participate in the poetic reconstruction of a prison bus into a traveling platform that inspires hope and wonder. This beautiful inversion of a vehicle typically used to lock people up into an instrument that heightens one's awareness and imagination will serve as one wonderful example of how state resources can be better deployed to lay the foundations for a brighter future," said Andrés Ulises Cortés, Agencie Architecture & Engineering

"Never underestimate the power of art and community gathering to create the necessary changes we want to see in the world," said Ben Furnas, Director of NYC Mayor's Office of Climate and Sustainability.

"After the year we had, our communities are ready for a joyful connection and resources! It's time to use our imagination as a tool for change and there is no better way to deliver these know your rights workshops than through an art piece that brings free ice cream, community connection and musical jingles! We can't wait to share this project with New York City, said Carolina Rubio-MacWright, Touching Land

"The first step in rebuilding a more equitable New York City must begin by empowering our citizens with the knowledge and the tools to engage in civic life," said Daniele Baierlein and Jorge Luis Paniagua Valle, Co-Executive Directors of The Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City. "The People's Festival will engage and educate New Yorkers in a way that has never been done before; through celebrations of art, cultural activities, and interactive workshops. This five-borough series of events will lay the groundwork from which a stronger New York City will emerge after the COVID-19 pandemic."

"The People's Bus will bring New Yorkers together in new and innovative ways. Both artistic and interactive, it is a tangible demonstration of the power of art to engage, heal and help us move forward with hope. Bridge Philanthropic Consulting is pleased and proud to be selected by the City of New York's Civic Engagement Commission to be part of this groundbreaking project, " said Dwayne Ashley, Bridge Philanthropic Consulting"

"Grounded in respect and consideration for the ongoing traumas caused by the government, The People'sBus is a vehicle for healing. Fueled by the power of solidarity, driven by interdependent community, and guided by radical imagination– we embody the diversity, grit, and compassion that defines the spirit ofNew York City," said Emma Rehac, Youth Executive Director, The People's Bus

"The People's Bus is a vehicle of joy and empowerment for communities that have been attacked by the violence of COVID and law enforcement. It represents taking a tool that has been oppressing communities and transforming it into a mechanism for our own resistance, peace, and healing," said Isabella Baugher, People's Fellow

"The People's Bus is an inspiring community-driven effort in New York City and Little Sun is honored to contribute a series of programs at the intersection of art and the environment. To make progress on the climate crisis we must first create opportunities for all people – but especially young people – to share their own stories and dreams for the future. The vital act of imagining allows us to visualize the world we want to inhabit, so that we can get to work making it real. In our experience at Little Sun, there is no better way to embark on this process than through art, " said John Heller, CEO, Little Sun

"We are thrilled to join the vibrant People's Festival and share information about workplace and consumer protections and financial empowerment resources with these communities as we work towards an equitable recovery. At its core, effective democracy is built on the series of informative political discourse through civic engagement between different communities of people. The Civic Engagement Commission, through its robust People's Bus initiative, will be visiting NYC communities to provide access and knowledge of governmental resources to help residents throughout the five boroughs," said Jordan Stockdale, Executive Director of the Young Men's Initiative

"We are thrilled to support the Civic Engagement Commission and the launch of The People's Festival," said NYC Chief Service Officer, Laura Rog. "Civic engagement works best when it brings people together and builds on our communities' assets, and NYC Service looks forward to sharing information on how to get further involved across our city through volunteering and service. We applaud the CEC for spearheading new and innovative ways to bring information and resources to neighborhoods across NYC."

"This past June, DemocracyNYC was proud to partner with the Civic Engagement Commission and the People's Bus to ensure New Yorkers knew about Ranked Choice Voting and exercised their right to vote in the Primary Election. By reimagining space and creating community-centered art, the City was able to reach New Yorkers like never before in all five boroughs. DemocracyNYC is excited to once again partner with CEC, DCLA, and PAIR on an even larger scale through the People's Festival. This August and September we will celebrate the beauty, talent, and resilience of our city by ensuring New Yorkers who are eligible to vote register and make their voices heard at the ballot box this November," said Laura Wood, Chief Democracy Officer, DemocracyNYC.

"At Museum of Ice Cream, we believe in the power of connection through ice cream. We are excited to be working with The Peoples Bus to bring a traveling version of joy and ice cream to New Yorkers across the boroughs, spreading the important messages of education, rights and creativity to the hardest hit areas of NYC this summer," said Manish Vora, Co-founder of Museum of Ice Cream

"The People's Festival is a shining example of how we can use grassroots, community-centered solutions to increase civic engagement and enhance our democracy," said May Malik, Deputy Commissioner, Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs. "Whether sharing multilingual resources, increasing voter registration, or supporting local artists, The People's Festival is critical for uplifting and empowering communities across the city, particularly the city's diverse immigrant communities. The Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs is proud to support this groundbreaking initiative and encourages all New Yorkers to join the festival to see how they can make their voices heard through civic participation, " said May Malik, Deputy Commissioner of The Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs

"We're excited for the Civic Engagement Commission's People's Festival to launch and to celebrate the resiliency of our New York City communities," said Community Affairs Unit Commissioner Roberto Perez.

"We're so excited to be bringing Drag Queen Story Hour to The People's Festival this summer, especially as it will give us a chance to bring our program to some parts of the city that we don't often get to visit. At Drag Queen Story Hour NYC, we use storytelling and creativity to give kids of all ages the confidence to express themselves however they feel comfortable, and one of our core values is to bring this vital programming to kids and families that wouldn't necessarily seek us out. After a year of doing DQSH on Zoom and Instagram Live, we can't wait to get back to doing more in-person events in communities across the city. Also, we recently started doing programming for teens, so we're especially excited about working with the Youth Core to develop our programming," said Rachel Aimee, Executive Director, Drag Queen Story Hour

"From being hardest hit by COVID-19 to being more at risk for violations of their sick leave rights to being the most financially vulnerable to weather the economic shocks—we have seen the pandemic disproportionately affect the same communities again and again," said Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) Acting Commissioner Sandra Abeles.

"We applaud the Civic Engagement Commission, the Department of Cultural Affairs, and the Mayor's Fund on the launch of the People's Festival, which will bring New Yorkers together to build community and celebrate our resiliency" said Susan Herman, Director of the Mayor's Office of Community Mental Health. "We are proud to support the People's Festival by sharing free resources that promote mental health, a critical part of recovery."

"Materials for the Arts is thrilled to be a materials sponsor for Yazmany Arboleda's CEC project, The People's Bus. The mission of The People's Bus aligns with MFTA's mission of promoting creative reuse and providing resources to communities who need them most. From the moment we learned about the project we could not wait to be involved and to see the incredible transformation," said Tara Sansone, Managing Director at Materials for the Arts

"Territorial Empathy is honored to have led the design process for People's Bus, festival, and digital exhibition. As Segregation is Killing Us, our investigation into the disparate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color suggests our city has been carefully designed to hoard resources for the privileged at the expense of the marginalized. The People's Bus challenges this painful history to demonstrate that participatory design can facilitate community healing and joy. It is our hope that all New Yorkers feel seen and celebrated by an element of the Festival – an aspiration that is shared by the intersectional team of architects, engineers, craft and tradespeople who made this powerful transformation possible," said Zarith Pineda, Director of Territorial Empathy.

"Participar en este proyecto nos reafirma como personas que pertenecen a un círculo más grande de amor, lucha, progreso, crecimiento y valoración de nuestras capacidades. Mujeres en Movimiento es parte de una gran familia de miembros llegados de todos lados, formamos una red de conocimiento, dedicación y apertura que da forma a esta maravillosa creación. Es pintar nuestros sueños con nuestras manos para mostrarlos al mundo desde nuestra individualidad, que es nuestra comunidad reformada en un ente colectivo digno de ser y pertenecer a este gran país en el que damos lo mejor de nosotros mismos honrando la bendición de crecer y crear día a día un mundo mejor." - Mujeres en Movimiento