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First Lady Chirlane McCray, Department of Cultural Affairs, Public Design Commission Open Art Exhibition "City At Work: Portraits In Civic Pride" at City Hall

December 5, 2016

Public Design Commission resumes full schedule, with revamped tour

NEW YORK—First Lady Chirlane McCray today joined Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs Tom Finkelpearl, the Director of the Public Design Commission Justin Moore, and curator Kalia Brooks to announce the re-launch of the City Hall public tour program. As part of the reopening, the City will unveil the exhibit “City at Work: Portraits in Civic Pride,” a series of portraits of City workers and the New Yorkers they serve every day. The exhibit will be installed throughout the building, concentrated in the rotunda, and open to the public through the Public Design Commission tours.

“City Hall belongs to New Yorkers, and should reflect the vibrant diversity of all the people who make our city great. The new public tour of City Hall, with the exhibit City at Work, features portraits of City workers from dozens of branches of local government alongside the people they serve every day. The men and women in these portraits keep our streets clean, our families safe, and our future bright. The art that hangs on the walls of City Hall is a reminder of our past and celebration of our present. I hope New Yorkers from all over the city have the opportunity to see these portraits. We want people to learn about our city's history and government, and be inspired to participate in making it even better," said First Lady Chirlane McCray.

A seventh grade class from University Neighborhood Middle School was the first to experience the exhibit as they walked through City Hall on a special tour with First Lady McCray, Commissioner Finkelpearl, Director Moore and curator Brooks on Monday morning.

“City at Work: Portraits in Civic Pride,” is a creative project by the Mayor’s Office and the Department of Cultural Affairs that aims to use the esteemed visual history of the City Hall portrait collection as inspiration for selecting new images that celebrate civic pride through the many people and cultures that the de Blasio Administration serves. These new images are a visual reference to the Administration’s commitment to the people of New York City, and represent a collective portrait of the individuals that City Hall and its agencies work on behalf of every day.

The installation highlights the City’s emphasis on public service by focusing on individual and group portraits of City employees and New York City residents. For this project, over 30 New York City agencies were contacted. The result is a selection of photographs that represent the interaction between city government and constituents through a variety of diverse agencies and jobs – from sanitation, to education, to media and entertainment, to the records department.

In conjunction with the City at Work exhibit, the Public Design Commission will kick-start its City Hall tour program, opening City Hall to the public with a full schedule of new tours. Based on in-depth historical research, the new tours will reveal the unique stories behind City Hall, the historic events that took place in and around the building, and the people who shaped the early development of the city and nation. Incorporating the contemporary photographs of City at Work, the tours will bridge the stories of the past to the lives of today – from the Dutch of the 1600s to revolutionary war heroes to the many people who now live and work in New York City.

"City Hall is an amazing building both for its past and its present. The refreshed tour program and the City at Work exhibition will enrich the experience of this great place as a historic building and as the control center of America’s largest urban workforce," said Tom Finkelpearl, Commissioner of Cultural Affairs. "I am proud every time I walk into City Hall, and will be even more so now with this exhibition honoring the talented men and women from all backgrounds who serve the public in every corner of New York."

The Public Design Commission is thrilled to be opening City Hall to the public through an expanded and enhanced tour program in coordination with the City at Work exhibit,” said Executive Director of the Public Design Commission Justin Moore. “The tours will highlight City Hall's unique architecture, antiques, and art collection and will allow New Yorkers, school groups, and visitors to experience the history and stories behind the people whose actions have made an impact on our city.”

“It has been a privilege to be part of this project. The City takes great care in the services it provides to its residents. I am thrilled to bring evidence of that to the public,” said curator Kalia Brooks.

Thirty agencies are represented by approximately fifty images in the lower rotunda, Mayor’s Office, Bull Pen, and five conference rooms. Curator Kalia Brooks worked with First Lady Chirlane McCray and the Department of Cultural Affairs to select the images for the exhibition.

The exhibit gives the public the opportunity to learn about the history of City Hall and City government through a contemporary narrative. It also provides opportunity for city residents and City workers to see reflections of themselves and other modern day New Yorkers on the walls of City Hall. Visitors will be able to sign-up for tours through the Public Design Commission’s website starting Monday, December 5. In December, tours for groups will be offered on Mondays and Tuesdays; tours for individuals will be offered on Thursdays. We will also continue to offer our non-reservation tours on Wednesdays.

No items from the existing City Hall collection were moved. The Department of Citywide Administrative Services produced and installed images in-house. The exhibit will be installed for up to one year. After the exhibition is taken down, portraits will be given to respective agencies to display in offices as a way for agencies to celebrate the work of their employees. "City at Work: Portraits in Civic Pride" could serve as a framework for future temporary, rotating exhibitions at City Hall.

“It is a unique honor for the Mayoral Photography Office to capture our dynamic city at work," said Michael Appleton, Director of the Mayoral Photography Office, which submitted several of the images for the exhibit. "The opportunity to share these printed images so prominently within the Rotunda at City Hall is the icing on the cake."

"This art will help New Yorkers see the hard work and dedication our municipal workforce completes every day" said Council Member I. Daneek Miller. "These men and woman are what keep our City running, ensuring that the critical services that add value to our parks, transportation systems, and, schools making our communities great. I am pleased First Lady Chirlane McCray is spearheading this effort and would like to thank her, and all the artists involved for making this exhibition a reality."

Henry Garrido, Executive Director of DC 37, said, "This is a terrific way to reflect the diversity and vitality of our great city – and to showcase the very real and meaningful ways public service workers enhance our quality of life."

The full list of participating agencies:

1. Administration for Children’s Services
2. Brooklyn Public Library
3. Commission on Human Rights
4. Department for the Aging
5. Department of Consumer Affairs
6. Department of Education
7. Department of Environmental Protection      
8. Department of Homeless Services
9. Department of Records and Information Services
10. Department of Probation
11. Department of Sanitation
12. Department of Small Business Services
13. Department of Transportation
14. Department of Veterans’ Services
15. Department of Youth and Community Development
16. Fire Department New York City
17. Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit
18. Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities
19. Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice
20. Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs
21. Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment
22. Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence
23. Mayor's Office of Photography
24. New York City Department of Parks and Recreation
25. New York City Economic Development Corporation
26. New York City Energy Management
27. New York City Health + Hospitals
28. New York City Housing Authority
29. New York City Police Department
30. New York Public Library

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