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Past Events

City as Partner: Artists Working in Government

A Blade of Grass
City as Partner: Artists Working in Government
Wednesday, June 27, 2018

unnamedImage: Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Sanitation Celebrations Grand Finale of the First NYC Art Parade, Part III: Ceremonial Sweep, 1983. Sanitation and union executives and municipal, arts, and cultural leaders clean the entire parade route along with the artist and her family. Courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts. Photo: Paula Court.

Why make art with the government?

Increasingly, cities across the US are embedding artists in municipal agencies ranging from Veterans Affairs to Transportation, Probation to Immigrant Services. In 2015, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) initiated Public Artists in Residence (PAIR), a residency program to create these artist-municipality partnerships.

On June 27, ABOG invited three artists who have been in residence in NYC agencies to talk about why they chose to be embedded in city government, what artists can contribute in such contexts, and what opportunities and challenges they experience. They explored expanding conceptions of art and hybrid priorities of artists as manifested by municipal partnerships.

Mierle Laderman Ukeles began working with the New York City Department of Sanitation in 1977 as the city’s first Artist-in-Residence, inspiring what was to become the PAIR program years later. Ukeles will be in conversation with 2017 PAIR alum artist Rebeca Rad, who worked with the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) as part of The Lost Collective, and Rachel Barnard, a 2018 ABOG Fellow and PAIR resident artist working within the Department of Probation (DOP).


Rachel G. Barnard is a social practice artist formally trained as an architect. In 2012 she founded Young New Yorkers (YNY), an arts diversion program for teens being prosecuted as adults in criminal court. To date over 700 young people have been sentenced to make art at YNY instead of jail or other adult sanctions. Most participants have had their adult criminal cases dismissed and sealed. Barnard’s art practice brings large groups of people together from diverse, and oftentimes adversarial, communities to create new spaces of belonging. As an ABOG Fellow, she will work with the Department of Probation to foster transformational relationships between DOP officers and their clients.

Since 1977, Mierle Laderman Ukeles has been the official, unsalaried Artist-In-Residence of the NYC Department of Sanitation. Her artwork, blurring boundaries between labor and performance, system and spirit, unveils connections between feminism, workers’ rights, and the environment. Currently, she is completing LANDING, the first permanent Percent for Art public artwork for Freshkills Park in NYC. Ukeles has exhibited internationally, including at the Whitney Museum, MoMA PS1, Queens Museum, LA MOCA, Tel Aviv Museum, Armory Art Show, Sharjah Biennial, Contemporary Jewish Museum, Wellcome Trust, Haus der Kunst, and the Istanbul Biennial. She is represented by Ronald Feldman Gallery in NYC.

Rebeca Rad is from Brazil by ways of Florida & Michigan. Rad is a Performance Artist/ Healer/ New world builder/ activist/ educator. They have directed & performed at various NYC venues including La Mama, National Black Theatre, The Public Theater, The Bushwick Starr and over 40 more. They can be seen on screen on FOX, Discovery Channel, PBS, MTV, MTV2, MTVDesi, Multishow, and The Pioneers. Rad is the co-founder/ co-Artistic Director of The Lost Collective, a socially conscious artistic community organizing entity. Rad is also Director of Outreach with You Are Here, creating space for Art and Action through happenings, research and community support.

We’re grateful that this program is made possible in part by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; the support of the American Chai Trust; and, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.


May 17, 2018