The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs has selected four artists to participate in its 2022 Public Artists in Residence (PAIR) program, which places artists within municipal government departments in an effort to reimagine the implementation of public policy. PAIR artists will develop and implement a public, participatory project on behalf of an assigned government agency. This years cohort of designers comprises Gioncarlo Valentine, Alex Strada, Modesto Flako Jimenez, and Carlos Irijalba and the agencies hosting the artists are the Department of Design and Construction, Department of Homeless Services, NYC Health + Hospitals, and Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes. Each artist will receive a $40,000 stipend for the duration of the one-year residency; they will use their creative practice to address issues such as gun violence, infrastructure, hate crimes, and homelessness.
The PAIR program was inspired by the work of artist Mierle Ukeles, who started a residency at the Department of Sanitation in the 1970s. Since it was launched in 2015, the PAIR program has placed 24 artists in residence with 15 city agencies.
“The myth of the artist as a ‘lone genius’ holed up in their studio has been thoroughly busted – we know that artists are deeply rooted in our city’s communities, and that their creative practice can act as public service” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Laurie Cumbo said in press release.
“Our extraordinary Public Artists in Residence program builds on this understanding, embedding artists within local government to help imagine new solutions to age-old problems. We’re thrilled to announce this latest group, and can’t wait to work alongside this class of PAIRs and our partner city agencies to bring to life their bold ideas for helping New Yorkers.”
Carlos Irijalba is a multimedia artist, his previous installations examine geology and industrial substances to understand the material basis of the present. Irijablba will serve as the public artist in residence for the Department of Design and Construction, and will use his creative practice to improve the city’s infrastructure, making it not only more resilient and sustainable and but also equitable.
“The visible materials and hidden networks in civic construction shape our physical navigation and emotional senses,” Irijalba described. “Hardware like asphalt, stone, open space, metal-wrapped curbs fulfill an intended purpose while informal software like parking cone culture and fire hydrant sprinklers, create other realities. How do we bring awareness to this symbiotic and paradoxical relationship between planning intentions and actual uses? What can we learn from the gaps between the hardware and software that form the city’s infrastructure operating system?”
Gioncarlo Valentine, a photographer and writer who helms from Baltimore focuses his work on Black LGBT+ communities. As the public artist in residence for the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes he will bring light to New York City’s unheard stories, calling attention to the violence faced by Black and Brown transgender men, women, and gender nonconforming/non-binary people.
“I am terribly excited to begin my work with OPHC and to come up with creative, enriching, and accessible ways to make New York City safer for the LGBTQIA+ community, with a particular focus on Black and Brown transgender men, women, and Gender Non-Conforming/Non-Binary folks. I know that transformation takes time but I’m excited to be in thought, in community, and in conversation around these issues,” the artist said.
Alex Strada, an artist, filmmaker, and educator whose work relates to legal studies and politics, will work with the Department of Homeless Services. Many of her projects are produced collaboratively, engaging with artists and activists from disparate backgrounds. Her work has been widely exhibited around New York City, including at the Queens Museum, Socrates Sculpture Park, and Times Square, in addition to around the world in places such as Iceland and Lithuania.
As a PAIR recipient Strada plans to create a public-facing art project that will help New Yorkers understand the experience of homelessness.
“How do New York laws aid in preventing or perpetuating the experience of homelessness? I am specifically interested in exploring New York’s right to shelter law in relation to barriers surrounding access to affordable housing, people seeking asylum, and mass incarceration. I plan to draw from social practice and participatory storytelling to help create coalitions, increase advocacy, and create a space for people to collectively rethink how legal structures and alternate systems of care could be instituted to provide more support and aid to those who need it most,” said Strada.
Modesto Flako Jimenez, a Bushwick-raised artist, poet, and playwright, will serve as the public artist in residence for NYC Health + Hospitals. In 2012, Jimenez founded Oye Group, a non-profit organization which provides arts education programming across Brooklyn, utilizing an eclectic mix of theater, dance, poetry, music, video installations, and film in their programs. In collaboration with NYC Health + Hospitals, Jiminez and Oye Group will develop gun violence prevention programs for implementation across New York City, drawing from NYC H+H Violence Interruption and Prevention programs as well as developing their own alternative strategies for violence prevention.
“Dozens of young people are victims of gun violence in our city each year,” Jimenez said. “Countless others have access to guns, and tens of thousands are exposed via social media and news headlines of gun violence across our city, country, and world. Tragically, too many lack social support and mental health services to avoid gun violence. Theater, reading, writing, and poetry – possibly incorporating stories of violence among their communities – can be used to provide youth with self-awareness, self-expression, confidence, and other skills to avoid gun violence and educate their peers on how they may do the same.”