New York City public art campaign shows love for essential workers

This week, New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state’s shutdown would extend to May 15, and that all residents would be required to wear face coverings while in public. Now there’s a public art campaign to drive home the message across the five boroughs – and show support for the essential workers keeping New York City running. 

Love in the Time of Corona poster in Times Square. PSA by Maira Kalman, photo by Ian Douglas
PSA by Maira Kalman, photo by Ian Douglas © Poster House and Times Square Arts

Debuting Friday in Times Square and on some 1,800 digital billboards and screens around the city, the campaign highlights public safety, civic pride, and appreciation for the workers on the front lines of the crisis. 

“This citywide PSA campaign is an incredible opportunity for artists to communicate the pride and overwhelming gratitude we all feel for our health care and essential workers here in Times Square and across all five boroughs of New York,” Times Square Arts director Jean Cooney said in a press release. 

Wash your hands and wear your masks - posters by Ola Baldych
PSAs by Ola Baldych © Poster House and Times Square Arts

A joint effort from the Poster House museum and the public art program Times Square Arts, the two-part initiative launched with the work of well-regarded graphic designers like Milton Glaser, Maira Kalman, and Edel Rodriguez, all recruited for the cause by Print Magazine; phase two will roll out in late April or early May and feature pieces from contemporary artists, in conjunction with For Freedoms and Times Square Arts. 

Blue poster with a row of healthcare professionals under the words New York Loves You
PSA by Edel Rodriguez © Poster House and Times Square Arts

“Posters are designed first and foremost to convey messages. To catch viewers' eyes, to draw those eyes into information and often demand action,” said Print Magazine co-editorial director Steven Heller. “These particular public service announcements serve another goal. They are celebrations of the first responders and myriad essential workers who courageously enable the city to function.”

A black and white poster with line drawings of two dogs above a ruler, with the words "6 feet means multiple dogs"
PSA by Joe Hollier © Poster House and Times Square Arts

Times Square Alliance president Tim Tompkins likened the initiative to historic junctures in the city’s past, saying, “As it has so often in the past during moments of crisis or celebration, Times Square will channel the spirit of the city to the country and to the world.” 

A poster with four drawings of people in their apartments with the words "Stay home. Stay safe."
PSA by Jessica Hische © Poster House and Times Square Arts

As Poster House director Julia Knight put it, “With people all over New York banding together to combat this disease and support those on the front lines, it was only natural for New York organizations to partner in that same spirit, bringing together the power of mass communication and public art, then magnifying it with our gratitude.” 

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