Sidewalk sheds and scaffolding, while important to keeping New Yorkers safe near NYC construction sites, are also complete and total eyesores. Recent data found there are currently about 9,000 active sidewalk sheds in NYC–spanning nearly 400 miles–meaning, unfortunately, there’s nearly 400 miles of NYC sidewalks that could benefit from a facelift.
NYC’s “Shed the Shed” plan is working to reduce the amount of time scaffolding stays up at construction sites (which remain on city streets for an average 498 days) to make NYC more aesthetically pleasing.
While we wait for them to come down though (which can be a while considering the city’s longest-standing sidewalk shed was just finally removed after 21 years), in the meantime, NYC is calling for artists to beautify these eyesores.
NYC’s Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) has issued an open call for artists to install large, temporary artworks on scaffolding across all five boroughs to make them more visually appealing to pedestrians.
The request is part of the DCLA’s City Canvas program, which was initiated as a temporary pilot program in 2018 before being made permanent in 2021. It became effective this past September, and property owners who request permits for sidewalk sheds and scaffolding are automatically enrolled in the program (though they are offered an opt out option).
Under the program, property owners have two avenues to go down when it comes to installing artwork on temporary protective structures. These avenues include Site-Specific Artwork and Pre-Approved Artwork.
Property owners who take the Site-Specific Artwork route independently (or with the assistance of a partner organization) commission artwork to display on their scaffolding. The artwork must be approved by DCLA prior to display.
In the Pre-Approved Artwork route, the DCLA directly commissions artwork that property owners may license for a fee to be negotiated with the artist.
All of the artwork must maintain appropriate proportions and color when scaled and printed and must comply with the following guidelines:
- No obscenity or hate speech
- No sexual content
- No advertisements (including commercially recognizable symbols or logos)
- No depiction of illegal activity
- Artwork must not violate Federal, State, or local law or rule
- Artwork must be consistent with the Zoning Resolution
- Artwork must include a credit to the artist
- Artwork may not contain text, except for permitted credits and/or an information panel
Artists interested in applying to the City Canvas program can do so by submitting a statement of interest, an artist statement, and up to 10 digital images of recent work samples by January 31, 2024.
Artists will be selected the week of February 19 and will each receive $1,000 to develop a final design.
Those interested can apply here.