About the Project

One to one, one at a time, all of the time, thousands of keys will be bestowed by thousands of people on thousands of citizens for thousands of reasons that deserve to be recognized. Keys to cities are traditionally given by a mayor to a hero or dignitary, symbolizing that they can have free entrance to the city. This new Key to the City belongs to us, and is awarded among ourselves. We will give each other the key to our city for private reasons that exist outside of history. Instead of being acknowledged for landing a plane in a river, we are awarded the key for perfect attendance in school. Instead of receiving an honor for winning the World Series, we receive the key because of the kindness we showed at the hospital. And with this new key, we gain an opportunity to step back and reflect on common space in the city. For not only does the key open up specific sites, but it can also make us aware that the city is a series of spaces that are locked or unlocked.

Curated by Nato Thompson

How to Participate

Key to the City is a public art project that is free and open to everyone. To participate and get a key, simply visit the Key to the City kiosk in Times Square, on Broadway, between 43rd and 44th Streets. We encourage you to bring someone with you as you will not only receive a key, but also bestow a key through a special ceremony. If you come alone, you can still participate—or, you might even meet someone in line who you want to award the key. As you wait in line, you will receive a guidebook with information about each site the key opens and Creative Time volunteers will explain how the key bestowal ceremony works. Part of preparing for the key bestowal ceremony involves filling out a template script, which you will read aloud during your ceremony.

When you reach the front of the line, you (and your partner) will enter a temporary park that the artist refers to as “the commons.” Upon entering the commons, you will fill out a page of the communal ledger, preserving the key ceremony for posterity. You will then read aloud the script that you filled out in line, specifying the reason you are bestowing the key upon your partner, and award them the Key to the City. They will then award you a key in return, and you will both be official holders of the Key to the City.

Upon exiting the commons, you will be equipped with your guidebook containing directions to, and pictures of, all 24 Key to the City sites located across the five boroughs. Your key will open a lock at each site. As many of the sites are quite far, you will need to plan your visits in advance. To get your Key to the City adventure started, you can walk over to Bryant Park and use your key to turn a public street lamp on and off.

This project exists not only in public space, but virtual space as well. We encourage you to post your pictures to Flickr, add your comments to the “Open a Lock” section of this website, and use social networking platforms like Twitter and Facebook to share your experiences. Ultimately, Key to the City is about democracy, access, and your city—enjoy it!

See the Portraits