News and Press Releases

For Immediate Release: November 12, 2019

Media Contact: Cultural Affairs:

DDC: Shoshana Khan,




The monumental 22.5-foot sculpture was commissioned through the City’s Percent for Art program as part of a broader revitalization of the Tillary Street corridor


Images of the artwork installed in Downtown Brooklyn are available here.

  • Artwork credit: © Hank Willis Thomas, Unity, 2019, an original work commissioned by the City of New York Department of Cultural Affairs Percent for Art Program, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Design and Construction.
  • Photo credit: NYC Department of Design and Construction / Matthew Lapiska.

Brooklyn, NY - The NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Department of Transportation, Department of Design and Construction, and Downtown Brooklyn Partnership have announced the installation of “Unity,” a new, monumental public artwork that was commissioned as part of the ongoing reconstruction of Tillary Street in Downtown Brooklyn. Installed the morning of Saturday, November 9, 2019 on the western median of the Tillary Street and Adams Street intersection in Downtown Brooklyn, the piece welcomes travelers from the Brooklyn Bridge and creates a new landmark at this high-profile location.

This large-scale sculpture of a bronze arm communicates a myriad of ideas about individual and collective identity, ambition and perseverance. The piece measures 22.5 feet in height, emerges from the ground and points towards the sky, echoing the Statue of Liberty’s iconic gesture.

“Works of public art shape and define open spaces across New York City,” said Kendal Henry, Director of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art program. “With ‘Unity,’ Hank Willis Thomas captures a huge range of meaning with a simple form, conveying a sense of uplift, hope, and a little bit of Brooklyn attitude at this prominent site. We are thrilled to join our partners at DDC and DOT to install this instantly iconic work of public art.”

“This sculpture is an homage to and celebration of the unique and multi-faceted character of the borough of Brooklyn,” said artist Hank Willis Thomas. “The spirit of Brooklyn has always been about upward mobility and connection to roots. The large-scale sculpture of a bronze arm pointing toward the sky is intended to convey to a wide audience a myriad of ideas about individual and collective identity, ambition, and perseverance.”

“Brooklyn is a borough of history, character and distinction,” said City Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo. “With over 2 million people shaping the culture and vibrancy of our great borough, I am so delighted that Hank Willis Thomas’s ‘Unity’ sculpture lives in Downtown Brooklyn, to remind us of the importance of togetherness, persistence and possibility. As Brooklynites, I encourage us to view this new landmark as a renewal of that Brooklyn pride which we carry daily. Let it also call us to walk the path collectively toward success, growth, and enhanced unity.”

The artist worked closely with UAP Polich Tallix, located in nearby Rock Tavern, New York, throughout the fabrication of “Unity.” The foundry was provided with a 3D file of the artwork, which was then milled into 10-pound foam patterns. UAP Polich Tallix then used multiple fine art bronze casting processes to create the sculpture, which subsequently received a patina finish and was transported from their facilities directly to the installation site. Downtown Brooklyn Partnership will be responsible for ongoing maintenance of the work.

"It's wonderful to have permanent public art of this caliber, by a Brooklyn-based artist, at a location where so many make their entrance to the borough," said Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President Regina Myer. "Hank Willis Thomas' monumental Unity will serve as a memorable landmark, and as a symbol of Brooklyn's triumphant spirit. The City's ongoing investment into the area's public art is recognition of Downtown Brooklyn's transformation into a thriving destination, and we are thankful to DCLA, DDC, and DOT, for their work and commitment to the project."

The reconstruction of Tillary Street is a significant ongoing street improvement project in Downtown Brooklyn that DDC is completing on behalf of DOT. The project will simplify street geometry, create substantial protected space for pedestrians and bicyclists by widening sidewalks and installing planted medians throughout the area, and provide an enhanced gateway between the Brooklyn Bridge and Downtown Brooklyn. There will also be upgraded water mains, traffic signals, street lighting, hydrants, manholes and wayfinding signs throughout the project area. This art commission is a component of this wider effort to cultivate a safer, more vibrant public space in the busy heart of Brooklyn.

About Hank Willis Thomas 

Hank Willis Thomas is a conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to perspective, identity, commodity, media, and popular culture. Permanent public commissions include Love Over Rules in San Francisco, CA, All Power to All People in Opa Locka, FL, Raise Up for the Equal Justice Initiative’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice, Montgomery, AL, I See Myself in You with Nekisha Durrett in Miami, FL, and The Truth Is I Welcome You, Coral Gables, FL. Thomas is a recipient of the Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship (2019), Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (2018), Art for Justice Grant (2018), AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize (2017), Soros Equality Fellowship (2017), and is a member of the New York City Public Design Commission.

About Percent for Art

Since 1982, New York City's Percent for Art law has required that one percent of the budget for eligible City-funded construction projects be spent on public artwork. Managed by the City's Department of Cultural Affairs, the Percent for Art program has commissioned hundreds of site-specific projects in a variety of media-painting, new technologies, lighting, mosaic, glass, textiles, sculpture, and works that are integrated into infrastructure and architecture-by artists whose sensibilities reflect the diversity of New York City. Over 330 permanent public artworks have been installed through Percent for Art since 1982, with another 125+ in progress. Learn more at

About the NYC Department of Design and Construction
The Department of Design and Construction is the City’s primary capital construction project manager. In supporting Mayor de Blasio’s long-term vision of growth, sustainability, resiliency, equity and healthy living, DDC provides communities with new or renovated public buildings such as such as firehouses, libraries, police precincts, and new or upgraded roads, sewers and water mains in all five boroughs. To manage this $14 billion portfolio, DDC partners with other City agencies, architects and consultants, whose experience bring efficient, innovative and environmentally-conscious design and construction strategies to City projects. For more information, please visit