It’s no secret that New York City is home to a vibrant arts scene — palatial museums, immersive exhibits, and glittering galleries abound, offering tourists and city-dwellers alike the opportunity to delve into a constant flow of robust, creative activity. Arguably more representative of the city, however, are those arts initiatives that remain grounded in the everyday, and, without grandiosity or longstanding reputation, offer a genuine glimpse into New York’s life force. This sense of intimate authenticity is what visitors to An Ode to NYC, the second edition of a city-wide poster exhibition by NYCxDESIGN, can expect. Envisioning a “Future City” via a series of posters located throughout Manhattan, An Ode to NYC is an expression of love for New York.
A non-profit organization committed to empowering and promoting the city’s diverse creative community, NYCxDESIGN seeks to “re-connect people to the heartbeat of NYC’s design scene.” First established in 2012 as a City Council initiative to convene and promote the design industry in New York, NYCxDESIGN now hosts a yearly festival that serves to support the value of design across all five boroughs. In addition to An Ode to NYC, NYCxDESIGN organizes year-round programming that sees diversity, purpose, cultural placemaking, economic opportunity, and creativity as its core values.
After spending years in leadership positions at the Guggenheim and the Van Alen Institute, the current Executive Director of NYCxDESIGN, Elissa Black, was particularly drawn to the organization’s nonprofit status, seeing its unique position in “acting as a hub for the design community in its broadest sense.” In an interview with The West Side Spirit, Black expanded on the NYCxDESIGN’s mission, noting its pivotal role in sustaining New York’s design community as they seek to create an optimistic future for the city.
“We strive each day at NYCxDESIGN to grow diversity and opportunity across our city’s design sector. We uplift and celebrate New York City’s exceptional design community, deepening ties between designers, makers, suppliers, and design-adjacent initiatives and enterprises across the boroughs, while also educating about design and its possibilities,” Black said. “We see design as central to creating lasting change towards a thriving and more equitable New York City, and we champion these initiatives by generating programs and opportunities for our most creative design minds to flourish and contribute to the renewal of our city.”
This year’s poster exhibition runs for the entire month of October and features pieces that tackle themes of race, diversity, architecture and urbanism and resilience in the wake of the havoc wreaked by the COVID-19 pandemic. NYCxDESIGN’s Program Director, Valerie Hoffman, sees An Ode to NYC as a demonstration of solidarity amongst New Yorkers. In a press release for the event, Hoffman remarked, “New York City is home to many of the world’s most talented and beloved designers, including those who came together during the first iteration of An Ode to NYC [in 2020] to inspire civic pride when it was needed most. This year our designers have created original art that demonstrates the need for unity as we imagine a better future for NYC. We couldn’t be more grateful for their immense creativity, and we are thrilled for New Yorkers to experience this moment with us again.”
“The Place Where Everything Happens”
Sixteen artists and designers are featured at this year’s An Ode to NYC, all of whom Black feels “represent New York’s vibrant and diverse creative community who were tasked with painting a vision of tomorrow with one-of-a-kind poster designs.” She said, “The breadth of this group offering their vision and talent to this program, as well as the support across all parts of the design sector, reveal the incredible power of NYC’s design community to come together and lead the city into a brighter future.”
Several featured artists at this year’s exhibition have shared comments that provide context for their work. One poster depicts a bustling throng of New Yorkers drawn in rainbow hues and moving in unison, their image reflected in a pool of water in the foreground. The words, “The Future of New York is Made of Dreamers” grace the bottom of the poster in large, capitalized, blue font. Its artist, Ignacio Perrano Serez of Milton Glaser Inc., said of his work in a press release, “When I think about the future of New York City, I think that no matter how the city develops itself or how difficult it is to live there, new people will always be willing to come to this unique place on Earth to get their dreams realized. More than their monumental highlights, New York City is the place where everything happens, and everyone meets looking for something that they can only obtain here.”
Artist Liz Collins also spoke about her work, “Stitched Together,” which shows the letters “NY” stitched in black thread to a poster made of cardboard. Above the phrase is a pink and red woven heart — a few fraying threads are intentionally loose so that they can gently cascade over portions of the letters like running water. Collins said, “We use what we have - recycling materials that have inherent beauty like cardboard. We are strong but also distressed, worn out, stitched together again and again with care and love. We take care of our city with patience and find love and beauty in simple things, in moments, as the patterns reveal themselves everywhere, everyday. We have this to keep us together... To stay strong. Even when everything gets stripped away, we still have love and we have the basic elements to survive.”
The 2021 Ode to NYC posters are available for purchase at the Poster House Shop, with all proceeds going to Silicon Harlem, a nonprofit organization that works toward digital equity in the city, to redress communities that lost internet access during the pandemic which disproportionately affected their ability to quality healthcare and education. Visitors can view An Ode to NYC’s collection of posters in window front display locations across the city, which can be found using NYCxDESIGN’s virtual map. Additionally, the posters can be viewed digitally on expansive screens at The Oculus at the Westfield World Trade Center, Fulton Center, and on-board the NYC Ferry’s fleet.
Black discussed the community response to An Ode to NYC, saying, “There is clearly a great love for this city and the fact that we can help support local businesses and designers, and raise funds for Silicon Harlem, through this campaign is a win-win for all involved. A big shout out and thank you to all our sponsors and supporters who make this impactful city-wide program possible, and to our incredibly talented designers taking part in this edition of An Ode to NYC.”
This year our designers have created original art that demonstrates the need for unity as we imagine a better future for NYC. We couldn’t be more grateful for their immense creativity.” NYCxDESIGN Program Director Valerie Hoffman