Event at Union Square featured Broadway dancers, stilt walkers, building projections, and a former Dept. of Correction bus that has been converted to a civic engagement art installation

NEW YORK— On Wednesday, June 16, 2021 at Union Square, DemocracyNYC hosted “Countdown to Vote,” a free community event open to the public to promote the Primary Election and Ranked Choice Voting. The event featured performances by local artists as well as The People’s Bus—a retired NYC Department of Correction vehicle that has been transformed into a community-led, intergenerational mobile civic engagement center.

Photos and video from the event can be found here.

The People’s Bus is designed by Yazmany Arboleda, a Colombian-American artist who creates living sculptures. The bus will be parked on the plaza at Union Square for the event and will have opportunities for New Yorkers of all ages to learn about voting and to provide feedback for the development of the bus.

Performances at the event included local performers: rapper Kosha Dillz and Friends, Tony Glausi’s jazz trio, Broadway dancers Annelise (of “Jagged Little Pill”) and Kyle (of “Beauty and the Beast”), the Street Beat Brass Drum Line, stilt performer Brianna, NYC-based all-women Brazilian Samba Reggae drum line Fogo Azul, and Harlem-based youth poet Fanta Ratty.

A large-scale illumination was executed by The Illuminator, a NYC-based artist-activist collective, and featured Ranked Choice Voting-focused artwork by diverse NYC-based artists including Ruben Dario Ramirez, Bernardo Rodriguez, Suzanne Ruzzo, and others.

As of 2021, NYC is using Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) in primary and special elections for NYC offices. Ranked Choice Voting is a new system of voting in which you can rank up to five candidates in order of preference. With so much at stake in local elections and the implementation of a new system of voting, public education is even more important than ever this year, which is why DemocracyNYC is working on educating New Yorkers through multilingual workshops, Get Out the Vote programming, community engagement, phonebanking, tech tools, and print and digital media campaigns.

DemocracyNYC is a nonpartisan mayoral initiative focused on increasing voter participation and civic engagement in NYC. For more information about the City’s $15 million Ranked Choice Voting campaign, see here.

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.

Production partners for this event include Enfluence, Kaleidoscope, and F.Y. Eye.

“As the amazing event in Union Square demonstrated, we are here to tell New Yorkers loud and clear: Ranked Choice Voting here—and it can be fun and engaging, too!” said Laura Wood, Chief Democracy Officer at DemocracyNYC. “DemocracyNYC is thrilled to work with so many wonderful artists from this great City to get out the vote in the final stretch before the June 22 Primary Election. From the pizza toppings vote to our multilingual media campaign, from our in-person and online informational events, to our street canvassing, phone-banking and texting, we believe that partnering with local artists and community leaders is the best way to build a campaign that is truly by and for New Yorkers. We hope New Yorkers feel the energy and vote by June 22.”

"On Wednesday, The Civic Engagement Commission's "Peoples Bus" rolled up to Union Square for the last stop on our five borough voter education tour. Together with agency partners, community organizations, artists, and performers, we brought information and excitement around the election directly to New Yorkers, meeting them where they are at. It is crucial that civic engagement be accessible, intelligible, and joyful; activations like the "Countdown to Vote" do exactly that," said Dr. Sarah Sayeed, Chair & Executive Director of the New York City Civic Engagement Commission.

“Community events like the one at Union Square bring New Yorkers together to celebrate their fundamental right to vote and help us reach New Yorkers in creative, attention-getting ways,” said Deputy Mayor J. Phillip Thompson. “Voting impacts New Yorkers' everyday lies, so we need to bring voting into their everyday lives. What a great way to herald the future of fairer and more inclusive elections by celebrating Ranked Choice Voting.”

"Enfluence is so proud to be part of such a fun, lively,  and most importantly impactful event around the upcoming election and Ranked Choice Voting education! We felt the energy of the city and the excitement of the people,” said Kendra Weldon, Enfluence Co-founder.

“DemocracyNYC has reinvigorated art as a powerful civic engagement tool to bring awareness to our new voting system,” said Jessica Toledano, Executive Director of F.Y. Eye - a nonprofit media agency that designed PSAs for City’s GOTV effort.  “It has been an incredible way to celebrate New York’s comeback as a community,” said Jessica Toledano, Executive Director, F.Y. Eye.

“Yesterday’s event was quite literally illuminating. The Uptown Collective is beyond proud to partner with DemocracyNYC and F.Y Eye in the crucial work of making sure our Democracy works for all of us. Democracy is not a spectator sport. You either use it or you lose it,” said Led Black, Founder of the Uptown Collective.


Event performers:

Fogo Azul (Drumline)
The New York City-based all-women Brazilian Samba Reggae drum line Fogo Azul (Blue Fire) was born at the intersection of founder and Buffalo, NY native, Stacy Kovacs’ passion for Samba Reggae, her deep respect for its cultural roots as a music of protest and resistance, her belief and activism in support of gender equality and her sense of civic duty in the current environment to publicly awaken and inspire women to resist oppression and exercise their power to uplift society—loudly. 

Street Beat Brass (Brass Band)
Chosen by the US State Department, NYC-based Street Beat has officially represented American culture on multiple international tours. An opening act for the New York Philharmonic, the band has been covered in the New York Times, NY Daily News, Queens Tribune and more. New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Fellow Jeff Fairbanks leads this strolling band of handpicked veterans of Broadway, Frankie Valli, Count Basie, and Glenn Miller touring bands.

Kosha Dillz and Friends (Rapper)
Kosha Dillz raps about everything he sees, experiences, and dreams. Kosha has said the majority of opportunities he's received in his career stem from wowing crowds with his freestyle ability, which eventually earned him notice from RZA of the Wu Tang Clan, with whom he has since recorded, on the 2010 track "Operator," also featuring Kool G Rap. RZA calls Kosha "one of the rawest Jewish kids I know, proving again that hip-hop comes in all shapes, sizes, forms and races."

Tony Glausi Trio (Jazz):
Hailed as "a great writer and a terrific trumpet player" by legendary songwriter Burt Bacharach, Tony Glausi is an international award-winning trumpeter, keyboardist, singer, writer, and producer in New York City. Tony is on teaching staff at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York and at The Idyllwild Arts Academy in Los Angeles.  Over the years he has also held teaching positions at the University of Oregon, where he completed his degrees, and the John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts, where he founded the Shedd Youth Jazz Orchestras.

Annelise and Kyle (Dancers):
Annelise Baker is thrilled to make her Broadway debut in Jagged Little Pill. Previous credits, Opera: The Merry Widow (The Metropolitan Opera and The Lyric Opera of Chicago) directed by Susan Stroman. Select regional: Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (Merry-Go-Round), Chicago (Riverside), Oklahoma!, and more.
Kyle Louviere

Brianna (Stilt Walker)

Artists/Designers Featured in Illuminations

Bernardo Rodriguez is an illustrator working out of New York City. who specializes in dynamic, figurative pieces with narratives - produced in traditional and/or digital media. Bernardo and his family immigrated from the Dominican Republic in 2002, and since he could remember drawing and painting have been his universal language. The work he produces is empowered by my love for the human experience, characters, and enchanting stories.

Dylan Andrew Lappin is a professional Sound Recordist in Television and Film. With over 15 Years of experience, he's had the pleasure of working with an eclectic group of talented people. With credits on shows such as "The Late Late Show with James Cordon," and History Channel's "American Daredevils," Dylan never knows what the next job will bring. New York City gives him the chance to bring all his aspirations to fruition. From playing music, trying stand up comedy, and tasting all kinds of food, there's always something new to do in the city that never sleeps. "The city really is the place where dreams become realities." - Dylan Lappin

Michael Macomber was born and raised in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and found his way to New York City in 1999 to attend Marymount in Manhattan. Once out of college, Michael became an assistant to a well known reality TV star and began learning the ropes of working with talent. And now, Michael has over ten years of producing experience under his belt. Some of his television credits include Ice Loves Coco, Project Runway: All Stars, and Black Ink Crew. Michael believes that every person you meet has a unique and different story to tell, and he loves being the one to bring these stories to life. “What I loved about this project was being on the street and interviewing the countless and colorful New Yorkers. There is an authenticity to the people of New York that shines.”

Ruben Dario Ramirez is a Dominican American artist who specializes in Traditional and Digital Illustration.  Born and raised in uptown New York City (Washington Heights), the biggest influences to his work have been his inner city upbringing, Dominican immigrant culture, and being raised with a brush in his hand.

The Uptown Collective is the voice of Uptown Online. We have been preaching the Uptown Gospel on a daily basis since Feb 2010. Washington Heights, Inwood and Harlem are undergoing a rebirth that Led Black has dubbed the Uptown Renaissance. The Uptown Collective’s mission is to document that verve, energy and dynamism in real time as well as to help shape it’s trajectory.

Untamed Anatomy is a Nepalese illustrator that draws on her South Asian heritage to honor the humanness of joy, anxiety, frustration, and reflective meditation in her work.

Throughout her career, Olivia Rios has challenged advertising conventions, launched some of the biggest brands in their category, and won numerous creative awards along the way including two Super Bowl commercials. She was previously the creative director for NYC Census 2020 and now works with Democracy NYC during a historic campaign for Ranked Choice Voting. With over 13 years of experience, Olivia has worked on some notable clients that include Ritz, Heineken, Popeyes, Comcast, Amex, Reckitt Benckiser, Charles Schwab, and Florida Blue.

Elizabeth Olguin is a creative consultant and digital producer with 7 years of experience, specializing in film, photography, and graphic design. She has worked on citywide campaigns with NYC Census 2020 and DemocracyNYC and works closely with community based organizations,  non-profit news organizations, and small business.

Jorge Simon is originally from Peru. For the last 17 years, he has worked at printing companies as a pre-press and designer. He then turned to pharmaceutical printing working on the production side as well as a designer. His passion has always been design and animation. He recently worked with NYC Census 2020 and DemocracyNYC.

FairShare is the Impact Consultancy that ignites courageous brands to embrace their Conscious Commercialism in order to deliver greater societal and commercial benefit. With the acceleration of social change, making a contribution to the World is no longer “nice to have.” Today, delivering positive societal impact — while also turning a profit – is a fundamental brand imperative.

Shelley Sinha is a Television and Digital Producer with 15 plus years of experience. From her early days on the set of “The Bachelor” to more recent days working on New York-based docuseries like “Ice Loves Coco,” “Black Ink Crew,” and  “Love and Hip Hop,” she has seen it all. This year, Shelley had the honor of working with FairShare on the Jetblue Healthcare Heroes campaign, which paid homage to the heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic, and won a gold from the Internationalist awards. “There is nothing I love more than filming in New York City. You can feel the energy of the city pulsing in your veins. This city is living, and breathing, and it’s never going to lose its essence. After a really difficult year, it reminds me that nothing can keep New York City down.”

A NYC native for 18 years, Shiloh Crawford III has chased Sinaloa Cartel members through the desert in helicopters, has experienced 4.5 Gs in a cockpit shoot of fighter jet pilots while circling the Statue of Liberty and has filmed legendary celebrity profile pieces featuring Jay-Z and Princess Diana. His keen eye assisted in the reopening of true crime investigations of high-profile murder cases like JonBenet Ramsey, Casey Anthony and Will Packer’s Atlanta Child Murders. “There is a zen-like quality that comes with seeing the world through the camera lens that very few people get to experience.”

Suzanne Russo is a NYC-based artist and illustrator. She is inspired by her love of the city & walks around her neighborhood, Washington Heights. Influenced by working 20 years as a fashion designer, she is drawn to interesting mixes of color, pattern and texture. She looks to capture the beauty of her neighborhood & surroundings in a real way using primarily marker & inks. "

Chris Barone fell in love with playing music at a very young age. During and after high school, he toured briefly as a singer/lead guitarist, and then became a Tour Manager with a national act in 2005. When not touring, Chris found himself working in television part-time, and he began learning the different aspects of the TV industry. After testing the water in several different roles, he became a sound mixer in 2010 and has never looked back.

From humble beginnings as one of six boys to immigrant parents, Danniel “Danny” Patino is proud to have made a name for himself in the New York film and television world. Danny has worked on many New York-based productions, including VH1’s Black Ink Crew, and the Housewives franchise. When not on set, Danny volunteers with an organization that educates and steers troubled youth in a more positive direction. “New York City is a diverse melting pot with fascinating stories from people and places. Nothing’s equivalent to the New York state of mind.”

Darren Joe’s Emmy award-winning work is informed from his background as a trained classical dancer, degree in video art and photography, and prior career as an Information Technology manager. Concentrating in narrative and documentary, but also working in the television and commercial space, Darren has lensed films across the world; including the UK, France, and India. Some which have gone on to be shown in international festivals; such as Sundance and Cannes. "Traveling through all the Boroughs and seeing NYC coming back to life was revitalizing. Especially seeing how engaged everyone was about voting. The future is looking bright and NY is back!"