News and Press Releases

For Immediate Release: August 27, 2020



Responding to the COVID-19 public health crisis, four artists will work within three City agencies to address issues related to families and social bonds, racial and social justice, and community engagement through creative practice

Images - including artist headshots and work samples - are available for download.


New York – The NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) has announced four 2020 NYC Public Artists in Residence (PAIR), who will be embedded within three different City agencies over the next year. PAIR, which DCLA launched in 2015, places artists-in-residence at City agencies to address pressing civic issues through creative practice. This group of PAIRs, whose proposals were developed in March and April of this year, will focus on issues related to the COVD-19 public health crisis and social, economic, and racial justice issues the pandemic has caused or worsened. Artists will work in the newly-established Civic Engagement Commission, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, and the NYC Commission on Human Rights, which will host two artists.

"The NYC Public Artists in Residence program establishes a powerful connection between our city's extraordinary community of artists, and the public agencies dedicated to serving New Yorkers," said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Gonzalo Casals. "This group of artists and agency partnerships will take aim at some of the profound, unprecedented changes and issues we've seen in the wake of the pandemic crisis, from glaring public health disparities to entrenched racial injustice. Through their work, artists have the power to show us new ways of looking at the world we live in. When we give them the time and space to dig deeply into our society's most pressing problems, amazing things can happen."

"MOCJ is honored to host Sophia Dawson as the artist in residence in our Office of Neighborhood Safety and grateful to the Department of Cultural Affairs for their vision in creating this program. Our office has worked to center safety in communities and shape solutions by empowering neighborhood voices. This residency will focus on telling the stories of the people who live in the neighborhoods there most affected by historic disinvestment and COVID-19. Telling the stories that have not been heard is a powerful part of finding solutions," said Elizabeth Glazer, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

“The expression of human rights and human dignity through art has a long and storied history, and we could not think of two more extraordinary artists to continue this tradition at the New York City Commission on Human Rights,” said Carmelyn P. Malalis, Commissioner and Chair of the NYC Commission on Human Rights. “Andre’s photography, often centered on the beauty, vibrancy, and intimacy of Black communities, will document New York City life in a historic moment of challenge and change. The innovative combination of science and art in Amanda’s practice challenges viewers to consider our relationships to the spaces we occupy. During these uncertain times, the Commission seeks to explore, together with these acclaimed artists, the critical role art plays in telling stories not often told. We can’t wait to collaborate with Andre and Amanda to bring a new light to the human rights conversation.”

“The New York City Civic Engagement Commission is proud to participate in the Public Artists in Residence Program and host artist, educator, and activist Yazmany Arboleda. Art is a powerful tool for empowering voices, engaging new and enlivened conversations about how we connect to one another and reimagine society. We look forward to collaborating with Yazmany whose artistic vision is rooted in creating spaces for people to come together, build connections, and chart a path towards their shared future,” said Dr. Sarah Sayeed, Chair & Executive Director of the New York City Civic Engagement Commission.


2020 NYC Public Artists in Residence:

Agency: NYC Civic Engagement Commission

Artist: Yazmany Arboleda

The challenge: the NYC Civic Engagement Commission seeks an artist to support its efforts in generating unconventional ways to empower the public to be heard and connect their own voices and needs to meaningful participation. The selected artist will have the opportunity to energize local communities by identifying themes that deeply resonate and inspire residents to make desired changes at a local level, empower leadership, and reach out and pull in traditionally underserved communities.

Yazmany Arboleda is a Colombian American artist based in New York City. He cannot do his work alone. An architect by training, Yazmany activates communities with large scale art projects that seek to build connections across barriers and highlight how linked we are. He believes that art is a verb not a noun. Over the past two decades he has created public art projects with communities in India, Japan, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Afghanistan, Spain, Colombia and the United States. He has collaborated with Carnegie Hall, the Yale School of Management, and BRIC, among others. He is currently the artist in residence at IntegrateNYC and the associate director of communications for Artists Striving To End Poverty. He is a cofounder of limeSHIFT, the Future Historical Society, Remember 2019, and the Artist As Citizen Conference. He has lectured at UNC, MIT, and LPAC about the power of art in public space. Website:


PAIR Area of Inquiry / Statement of Interest

“How do we empower youth and create a new generation of civic leaders? Today, youth are faced with a variety of social issues that directly impact them: disparities in educational opportunities, environmental hazards, economic instability, and access to health care. Some of these issues disproportionately impact certain communities because of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, ability status, or the intersection of these identities. Youth are often the ‘objects of policy’ instead of being viewed as change agents who can shape policy. How do we empower youth to be engaged agents for change?

My work engages communities in a collective process of imagination driven reinvention. I believe the networks of people I create through my projects are the artwork. We make objects that are beautiful, yes, but the connections between people - Muslims and Christians in Kenya, seemingly disparate members of the Fort Greene community, the youth of NYC - enable them to envision better futures together and take meaningful steps to enact that future, creating culture along the way.”


Agency: NYC Commission on Human Rights (CCHR)

Artists: Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya and Andre Wagner

The challenge: CCHR envisions organizing its new PAIR residency around the concept of family, broadly defined. The agency is interested in developing a collaborative project with artists that examines intergenerational family relationships, the families that New Yorkers build in addition to traditional family structures, or connections that New Yorkers have created where traditional familial bonds may no longer exist.

Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya is a multidisciplinary artist, educator, TED speaker, and STEM advocate currently in residence with the NYC Commission on Human Rights. From large-scale murals, to augmented reality (AR) experiences to 3D printed sculptures, Amanda's work is about making the invisible, visible. She has explored microscopic universes, familial memories, and the power of collective action to catalyze change through her art, much of which is interactive and invites viewers to engage physically and digitally. Viewers are challenged to rethink the world around them, from the physical places they occupy, to their sense of belonging and identity, to their expectations of the future. Her work has been shown at the Cooper Union, Google, the Sorbonne and the TEDWomen Summit and recognized by Forbes, Smithsonian Magazine, and The New York Times. Prior to becoming an artist, Amanda worked as a researcher studying Alzheimer’s Disease at Columbia Medical Center and received her MFA from Pratt Institute.


PAIR Area of Inquiry / Statement of Interest

“How might we highlight and celebrate the mingling of birth and chosen families of NYC’s ethnic neighborhoods?

I am the child of Thai and Indonesian immigrants. I was born in Georgia and remember bonding with the Thai staff at my dad’s restaurant, our chosen family when blood relatives were few and far between. For me, NYC has always been a place where people from all walks of life don’t just feel welcome, but truly wanted. You can see it in the many ethnic neighborhoods spread across the five boroughs. Now people of Asian descent are being targeted by hate crimes and xenophobia. Told that the virus is our fault and that we should go back to our countries, even as our ethnic grocery stores are stocked daily with essentials and our restaurants and bike messengers are feeding hungry New Yorkers.

This city needs to heal and art can do just as much as an IV or a warm meal. The color palette of my work is inspired by the vibrant foods and fashion of my Thai and Indonesian heritage. Through augmented reality mobile apps, people will be able to explore and interact with my art even if they’re sheltering at home. I look forward to collaborating on public art that speaks deeply to people throughout the city and makes them feel seen and heard.”

Andre D. Wagner is a photographer living and working in Brooklyn, New York. He explores and chronicles the poetic and lyrical nuances of daily life, using city streets, neighborhoods, parades, public transportation and the youth of the twenty first century as his visual language. His work and practice fits into the lineage of street photography that investigates the American social landscape, often focusing his lens on themes of race, class, cultural identity and community. He develops his own black and white negatives and makes silver gelatin prints in his personal darkroom.


PAIR Area of Inquiry / Statement of Interest

What will family look like during and after a global pandemic? Everybody has been impacted and New York City is at the heart of the outbreak. Many parents are essential workers, students need education, small businesses are closing, and economics can be challenging on any given day for many residents. I believe now more than ever that it's imperative to engage with communities and families to bring a wider understanding of human needs. How will families survive? How different is life moving forward? What is it really like for underserved communities? Are people getting the support they need?

As a photographic artist, I believe it's my duty to honor the place and the people with images full of dignity and nuance. I believe my work explores narratives rather than being snapshots, allowing viewers to examine the humanity - and possibly see the parallels between their own lives and the people in my photos. I also have a background and education in social work as well as being a self taught photographer. This all works to my advantage, before there is a camera there has to be a connection. I'm not an outsider photographing my community, I'm a neighbor and brother who believes photography has changing power.”

Agency: NYC Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice

Artist: Sophia Dawson

The challenge: The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice seeks an artist who can help lead their efforts to reframe justice and engage the imaginations of community members in individual healing, community restoration, and systemic transformation. This residency will be centered on storytelling and, working with MOCJ’s Office of Neighborhood Safety, will take a neighborhood-based approach, elevating the voices of community members who have been impacted by historic disinvestment. Specifically, MOCJ will work with the artist in the Mott Haven community to help heal historic trauma in a neighborhood that has experienced violence, but also where MOCJ has longstanding partnerships and investments.

Sophia Dawson is a Brooklyn-based visual artist who has dedicated her life’s work to exposing the stories and experiences of individuals who are striving to overcome the injustices they face both individually and collectively. By raising awareness of these individuals she aims to humanize social justice issues and to prevent such experiences from being repeated in the future. She holds a bachelor's degree in fine arts from the School of Visual Arts and a masters degree in visual arts administration from New York University. Her work has recently been exhibited in Rush Arts Gallery and the Bronx Museum for the Arts. She is a recent participant of the Whitney Museum's Independent Study program and a recent resident of the Bronx Museum of Art’s first residency program. She leads art workshops at Rikers Island through Artistic Noise, a nonprofit based in Harlem that serves the growth of court involved youth. Some of the individuals featured in her work include mothers who have lost their children to police brutality both past and present, the Exonerated 5 and political prisoners from the Black Liberation movement that are still incarcerated within the United States. She was also selected to design the word “lives” in the artist-designed “Black Lives Matter” mural installed near Foley Square in Lower Manhattan.

PAIR Area of Inquiry / Statement of Interest

“How can a community shift the gaze on their individual and collective narratives by telling their own stories? What new perspectives does this shift offer for members of that community and for others?

My practice is multifaceted and Spirit-led. I facilitate transformation, advocacy and awareness through collaborative and independent art initiatives. Every individual and issue portrayed in my work demands from me different levels of action, activism and community engagement. The ultimate goal is to humanize their struggle through art. The most challenging part about my work is being tasked to shift people's minds and demand that people unlearn and relearn the truth about the individuals in my work. That transformation is what I look forward to most.”


Each PAIR placement will last 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. Artists receive a fee, as well as in-kind resources such as desk space with the partner agency, and access to DCLA’s Materials for the Arts creative reuse program. PAIR is supported with funds from the City of New York.

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 now placed 18 artists in residence with 14 City agencies, including:

  • Rachel G. Barnardwith the Department of Probation
  • Tania Bruguerawith the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs
  • OnyedikaChuke with the Department of Correction (Rikers Island)
  • Bryan Doerries/Theater of Warwith the Department of Veterans’ Services
  • Tatyana Fazlalizadehwith the NYC Commission on Human Rights
  • Ebony Goldenwith the Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence
  • The Lost Collectivewith the Administration for Children’s Services
  • Mary Misswith the Department of Design and Construction
  • Social Design Collectiveand Christine Tinsley with the Department of Veterans’ Services

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