News and Press Releases

For Immediate Release: October 6, 2021

Contact: Ryan Max,


Three artists - Melanie Crean, sTo Len, and Kameron Neal - will embed within City agencies for the next year to address urgent civic challenges through their creative practices

Artist headshots, bios, and photos of past work are available for download here.

New York, NY - Today, the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs announced three artist placements for the 2021-22 Public Artists in Residence (PAIR) program. The artists, selected through an open call conducted earlier this year, will be embedded within the NYC Department of Sanitation, NYC Department of Records and Information Services, and NYC Department of Design and Construction. Over the next 12 months, the artists will bring their creative practices to bear on a range of public challenges, from fostering a greater understanding of our public sanitation and construction agencies, to engaging with newly digitized public records that capture a pivotal time in New York City’s history.

“PAIR allows artists to use their creative talents to serve New Yorkers in a way that’s unique and vital to our city’s advancement,” said Deputy Mayor Vicki Been. “We welcome Melanie, sTo, and Kameron to city government and can’t wait to see all that they accomplish to make our city more accessible, equitable, and innovative.“

“Artists help us translate, connect with, and make sense of the world around us, skills that make them exceptionally useful in expanding our ideas of what public policies and programs can achieve,” said NYC Cultural Affairs Commissioner Gonzalo Casals. “We are so excited to start working with these three artists and agencies to collaborate on creative new ways to see and address the problems we face together.”

2021-22 NYC Public Artists in Residence

Melanie Crean with the NYC Department of Design and Construction. The agency proposes to engaging an artist to transform a construction site into a platform for exploring, imagining, creating, and enacting connections between affected communities and the public works that impact a neighborhood.

Melanie Crean is an artist and educator whose creative practice focuses on the relationship between systems of control, the body and concepts of time. Working primarily with photography, video, experimental narrative and participatory practice, she researches how architectures of power are represented in media, culture and technology, and explores how these structures can be challenged and re-patterned. Crean is an Associate Professor of Art, Media and Technology and current director of the BFA Design and Technology program at Parsons School of Design.

sTo Len with NYC Department of Sanitation. The agency sought an artist who will bring dignity, respect, and appreciation to the agency's critical but often invisible workforce that makes life in New York City possible.’

sTo Len is a Queens based artist with interests in printmaking, installation, sound, video and performance. The cross-disciplinary nature of Len's work has included printmaking with polluted waterways, embedding a 12-part video into a virtual 3D scan of Fresh Kills Park, broadcasting pirate radio shows, reclaiming public space for art studios, recycling waste into art materials, and hosting events at Superfund sites. Len was the first artist in residence at AlexRenew Wastewater Treatment facility in Virginia and is a member of Works on Water, a group of artists and activists working with and about water in the face of climate change and environmental justice concerns.

Kameron Neal, with the NYC Department of Records and Information Services, where the artist is invited to imagine new ways to access, present, and use a vast store of newly-digitized video content from the 1970's and 80's that captured pivotal events of the era and to explore city government’s archival records dating from 1645 to the present.

Kameron Neal is a multidisciplinary artist working at the intersections of video, performance, and design. A Princess Grace Awardee and NYSCA/NYFA Fellow, Kameron is interested in exploring how video can move beyond the screen and interact with real space and real people in real time. This often takes the form of large-scale public projections, installations, and collaborations with artists that work in the theater, in music, and in dance. Kameron’s work has been presented by a variety of institutions including The Public Theater, BAM, Ars Nova, Digital Graffiti, CultureHub, New Orleans Film Festival, and the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum.

Each PAIR artist receives $40,000, and the residency lasts a minimum of one year. The residency begins with a research phase, during which the artist spends time at the agency meeting staff and learning about its operations and initiatives while also introducing the artist’s practice and process to agency staff. The research phase concludes with a proposal from the artist outlining one or more public-facing participatory projects that will be implemented during the remainder of the residency. In addition to the fee, PAIR artists receive in-kind resources such as desk space with the partner agency, and access to DCLA’s Materials for the Arts creative reuse program.

“Mierle Ukeles’s career of partnership with the Department of Sanitation has transformed the way that artists work with city agencies and with the public at large. This year, we are delighted to work with DCLA to continue that tradition and create new opportunities for an artist to engage with our workforce. We are happy to invite sTo Len to join Mierle in our DSNY family and to work together to highlight the way DSNY keeps NYC healthy, safe, and clean,” said Edward Grayson, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Sanitation.

“The Department of Records and Information Services welcomes our new artist in residence, Kameron Neal,” said NYC Department of Records and Information Services Commissioner Pauline Toole. “We look forward to their exploration of City government’s historical records in the Municipal Archives and Library and the creation of new work that shares access to the records in some innovative form within public spaces.”

“Our new Artist-in-Residence will work within DDC’s wide-ranging portfolio of projects to transform construction sites into a platform for creating connections between neighborhoods and the public works that affect them,” said NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) Commissioner Jamie Torres-Springer. “Ms. Crean has tremendous experience with community-based art initiatives that address DDC priorities for a healthier City, and her artist-initiated work could demonstrate successful strategies for engaging communities and building civic trust.”

“We create better government by putting public artists directly inside city agencies, looking at agency policies and programs in a new light and perspective,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer. “Congratulations to the new PAIR artists and agencies.” 

“I am currently researching how the physical redevelopment of buildings relates to the continual, ongoing need to evolve our civic systems, and how construction sites might be used as sites to facilitate the construction of dialog,” said NYC Public Artist in Residence Melanie Crean. “I am particularly excited about this residency to explore using the liminal, in between space of buildings under renovation as a prompt to explore and archive a range of voices describing the state of flux that is NYC at this transitional moment.”

“I am very excited for this opportunity to embed myself within the NYC Department of Sanitation, to learn from and engage with this essential workforce in artful investigations that challenge the public to reimagine our attitudes toward waste and acknowledge those who take care of it every day,” said NYC Public Artist in Residence sTo Len. “How can we modify our experience of sanitation work to free it from ‘dirty work’ and give it a renewed symbolic power that incites care?”

“I’m interested in using technology to breathe new life into stories from our city’s past,” said NYC Public Artist in Residence Kameron Neal. “If the archive is documentation of the people, how can it better serve the people?”

PAIR was inspired by artist Mierle Ukeles’ pioneering artist residency with the NYC Department of Sanitation, which started in the late 1970s. Since its 2015 launch, PAIR has placed 21 artists in residence with 15 City agencies. A full list is available on NYC Cultural Affairs website.

Project highlights from the 2020-21 PAIR cycle include the I Still Believe in Our City campaign by PAIR Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya, working with the NYC Commission on Human Rights; The People’s Bus and The People’s Festival, initiated by PAIR Yazmany Arboleda working with the NYC Civic Engagement Commission; and You Do It with Your Heart Black business solidarity initiative by PAIR Andre Wagner, working with the Commission on Human Rights. In summer 2021, DCLA announced that artworks by two recent PAIRs had been acquired by major cultural institutions around the world.



About NYC Department of Cultural Affairs

The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) is dedicated to supporting and strengthening New York City’s vibrant cultural life. DCLA works to promote and advocate for quality arts programming and to articulate the contribution made by the cultural community to the City’s vitality. The Department represents and serves non-profit cultural organizations involved in the visual, literary, and performing arts; public-oriented science and humanities institutions including zoos, botanical gardens, and historic and preservation societies; and creative artists at all skill levels who live and work within the City’s five boroughs. DCLA also provides donated materials for arts programs offered by the public schools and cultural and social service groups, and commissions permanent works of public art at City-funded construction projects throughout the five boroughs. For more information, visit