2015 | Department of Design and Construction

New York, NY

The Public Artist in Residence program (PAIR), launched in 2015 and overseen by the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) embeds artists in public agencies to help develop creative solutions to civic issues. Mary Miss was the first artist invited to participate in PAIR as an artist-in-residence at the New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC), which oversees all construction projects in New York City. DCC and DCLA work together to select projects and artists, and to implement the projects in compliance with the City’s Percent for Art program, which requires that one percent of the budget for eligible City-funded construction projects be spent on public artwork. 

Every DDC project presents the opportunity for public outreach and collaboration. Each construction project — a new water pipe, a small plaza, or a refurbished sanitation building — addresses issues and solutions about the City’s infrastructure and how it supports daily urban life. Helping communities tell their local stories, while providing a rich understanding of the infrastructure that supports them, should be the cornerstone of public infrastructure. 

Artists’ projects can establish and enrich connections between communities and their ecological and social environments. Many artists are engaged in work that seeks to increase the effectiveness and integration of social and environmental endeavors, such as food access, health, or climate change. Change depends on individuals making an impact, but change also requires the desire to create platforms to invite others to share in wonder, curiosity, investigation, and dialogue. 

NYC’s Percent for Art Program has the potential to enable these connections and sponsor further artist involvement in new developments. These opportunities are limited, however, and are often only made available to artists long after a project has started. 

Because of the limitations with the Percent for Art program, while at the Department of Design and Construction, Miss focused on identifying ‘access points’ or opportunities for ‘artist initiated projects’ within New York City in conjunction with the DDC. Though the proposal that evolved from this residency was never implemented, it provided an opportunity to conceptualize a process for engaging artists more broadly in the City’s development — a concept that is actively used in the City as Living Laboratory.

You can read more about the project here