For Immediate Release: January 10, 2024
NYC DEPARTMENT OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS AND DEPARTMENT OF BUILDINGS LAUNCH NEW, PERMANENT CITY CANVAS PROGRAM
The launch includes an open call for artists to create pre-approved artwork that building owners can display on temporary protective structures
New York, NY – The NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, in collaboration with the Department of Buildings, has released details for the new City Canvas program, which will expand opportunities for artists and building owners to install public artwork on temporary construction sheds, fences, and scaffolding. City Canvas – initially launched as a pilot in 2018 – transforms these necessary-but-unsightly safety structures into platforms for creative expression and community engagement. The new program, which was created through Local Law 163 of 2021, builds on the pilot and creates additional opportunities for artists, building owners, and communities to create site-specific artworks on the 300+ miles of protective structures currently installed across the five boroughs. As part of the launch of the new, permanent program, the city is also issuing a call for artists to apply to create pre-approved designs that site owners can use for protective structures on their properties.
“One of the greatest parts of this city is that our artists can take even the most mundane objects and look to them for artistic inspiration,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “These drab green sidewalk sheds have been part of New York's landscape for far too long so we are empowering artists, building owners, and communities to work together to create extraordinary artwork befitting our amazing city while keeping New Yorkers safe. Even unsightly structures will now be works of art.”
“We’re fully on board to ‘get sheds down’ but for the protective structures that have to stay in place, we say: if you can’t beat em, paint em!,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Laurie Cumbo. “City Canvas turns eyesores into opportunities by transforming the ugly-but-needed protective structures that can be found all over New York into platforms for artistic expression and community collaboration. The pilot program has showed the potential of this innovative program, and we’re proud to be rolling out the permanent program, including an open call for artists to design pre-approved artworks that site owners can select from. Learn more at nyc.gov/CityCanvas today!”
“The days of the dreary hunter green pipe-and-scaffold sidewalk shed are numbered,” said Buildings Commissioner Jimmy Oddo. “From new mesh parapet requirements to more public artwork under the City Canvas program, as well as the upcoming holistic shed redesigns coming in 2024, we are truly transforming the look and feel of our city streetscapes. Sidewalk sheds and construction fences serve an important public safety purpose, but that doesn’t mean we have to settle for unattractive designs. Through the ‘Get Sheds Down’ plan unveiled this summer, this administration is committed to using every tool at our disposal to reduce the length of time sheds are up unnecessarily in our city, while improving the pedestrian experience for all New Yorkers.”
"Sidewalk sheds are an unfortunate reality for city life, to keep us all safe during building repairs. As we work to take down the longest-standing sheds, we also need to ask more of the ones that remain," said Ya-Ting Liu, the city's Chief Public Realm Officer. "We are grateful to the DCLA for tapping into one of New York's most plentiful resources-- its deep well of artistic talent and creativity-- to help beautify the realm, one, dare-I-say-it, lovely sidewalk shed at a time."
In July, Mayor Adams and DOB Commissioner Jimmy Oddo announced “Get Sheds Down,” a sweeping overhaul of rules governing sidewalk construction sheds and scaffolding that will remove these eyesores from city streets more quickly while redesigning and reimagining those that are needed. Under City Canvas, sheds that can’t be removed can be transformed into platforms for local artists to beautify New York’s vibrant cityscape.
Under the new City Canvas program, there are two avenues for property owners to install artwork on temporary protective structures, Site-Specific Artwork and Pre-Approved Artwork:
The new City Canvas program joins the Adams administration’s broader efforts to enhance New York’s public spaces, which are essential to the city’s economic and social vibrancy. The administration has invested $375 million in creating high-quality public spaces as part of the "Working People's Agenda," and City Canvas will further enhance the vibrancy of the city’s streets and open spaces while giving local artists opportunities to work and generate income.
The City Canvas pilot program, which ran from 2019 through 2023, saw 119 artists complete 124 artworks at 47 locations in all five boroughs. As part of the non-profit organization ArtBridge’s “Bridging the Divide” program, a partnership with DCLA and NYCHA, 50 artists (19 of whom were current or former NYCHA residents) worked at NYCHA developments across the city, creating dozens of art installations in close collaboration with NYCHA residents.
"LMCC congratulates DCLA and DOB on launching the inaugural City Canvas program. We share a vision for our city that not only elevates urban aesthetics but also amplifies the voices of artists, showcasing their work in unexpected yet accessible galleries—our streets. This initiative is a win-win, benefiting both artists and local communities, and celebrating New York City's dynamic and ever-evolving artistic spirit," said Craig T. Peterson, President of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.
"Mayor Adams and Commissioner Cumbo deserve only great applause for publicly lifting up artists by displaying their works on local sidewalk sheds where they can be seen by thousands of pedestrians each day, while also beautifying the City,” said Michael Royce, CEO of the New York Foundation for the Arts.
About the Department of Buildings
Construction and real estate are the backbone of New York City, a built environment unlike any other. As the primary regulator of these vital industries, the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) helps provide housing and commercial space for our growing City, while promoting safety on approximately 40,000 construction sites and in the City's nearly 1.1 million buildings. Our goal is to strike the right balance between safety and development. To further this mission, we will aggressively enforce the City's Construction Codes, Zoning Resolution, and the New York State Multiple Dwelling Law to protect workers and the public. In addition, we will ensure that DOB supports all New Yorkers, whether or not they work in the industries we regulate. Learn more about DOB: https://www.nyc.gov/site/buildings/dob/dob.page
About the 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 nonprofit 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 www.nyc.gov/culture.