Creative Time

Chapter One

The American Manifest opened on July 13, 2022 with a live performance of Charles Gaines’s Manifestos 4: The Dred and Harriet Scott Decision and the sculptural installation, Roots, originating the project in the Supreme Court’s landmark Dred Scott decision, which sanctioned slavery as part of the US Constitution, as well as illuminating the region’s pre-colonial landscape.


Roots is a sculptural installation of seven American Sweetgum trees, painted and presented with the root systems intact and upside down to a surreal and dystopic effect. Sweetgum trees, indigenous to the eastern United States and populous throughout the region that eventually became Times Square, are known for their impressive root systems that require vast open spaces to grow.
Images of trees have figured prominently in Gaines’s practice since the mid-1970s, when he first began plotting their forms through a system of color-coded, numbered grids — a process that became central to his decades-long practice of interrogating the relationship between the object and subjectivity. Roots marks both a continuation of this decades-long investigation, and Gaines’s first foray into working with trees directly in their natural form.


To create the five-part musical composition performed in Manifestos 4…, Gaines uses a methodology established in his longstanding Manifestos series in which letters of the alphabet are assigned corresponding musical notes, in this case using the original text of the Dred and Harriet Scott Supreme Court decision as well as Frederick Douglass’s speech responding to the ruling. Past Manifestos compositions have converted speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr., the Black Panther Party, and Malcolm X, as well as writings by James Baldwin, Taiaiake Alfred, and Olympe de Gouges. Through this rules-based process, Gaines produces a musical score directly representational of American history, a new sound devoid of the revisionism and omissions of anthems and other nationalistic songs—Manifestos 4 instead offers a more honest melody, performed in America’s modern-day commercial crossroads, Times Square.


Performance credits

Composed by Charles Gaines
Arrangements by Charles Gaines and John Eagle
Vocals: Darian Clonts
Piano: David Friend
Flute: Gina Izzo
Oboe: Mekhi Gladden
Clarinet: Ian Tyson
Bassoon: Joy Guidry
French Horn: Jeff Scott
Music Director: John Eagle
Producer: Madeline Falcone

Project Partners

About Creative Time
Since 1974, Creative Time has commissioned and presented ambitious public art projects with thousands of artists throughout New York City, across the country, around the world—even in outer space. The organization’s work is guided by three core values: art matters, artists’ voices are important in shaping society, and public spaces are places for creative and free expression. Creative Time is acclaimed for the innovative and meaningful projects they have commissioned, from ​Tribute in Light,​ the twin beacons of light that illuminated lower Manhattan six months after 9/11, to bus ads promoting HIV awareness, to Paul Chan’s production of Waiting for Godot in New Orleans​, and much more. In partnership with a variety of well-known cultural institutions and community groups, Creative Time has commissioned art in unique landmark sites from the Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Governors Island, and the High Line, to neglected urban treasures like the Lower East Side’s historic Essex Street Market, Coney Island, and New Orleans’s Lower 9th Ward. Creative Time is committed to presenting important art for our times and engaging broad audiences that transcend geographic, racial, and socioeconomic barriers.
About Times Square Arts
Times Square Arts, the public art program of the Times Square Alliance, collaborates with contemporary artists and cultural institutions to experiment and engage with one of the world’s most iconic urban places. Through the Square’s electronic billboards, public plazas, vacant areas and popular venues, and the Alliance’s own online landscape, Times Square Arts invites leading contemporary creators, such as Mel Chin, Tracey Emin, Jeffrey Gibson, Ryan McGinley, Yoko Ono, and Kehinde Wiley, to help the public see Times Square in new ways. Times Square has always been a place of risk, innovation and creativity, and the Arts Program ensures these qualities remain central to the district’s unique identity.
About Governors Island Arts
Governors Island Arts, the public arts and cultural program presented by the Trust for Governors Island creates transformative encounters with art for all New Yorkers, inviting artists and researchers to engage with the issues of our time in the context of the Island’s layered histories, environments, and architecture. Governors Island Arts achieves this mission through temporary and long-term public art commissions, an annual Organization in Residence program in the Island’s historic houses, and free public programs and events in partnership with a wide range of cross-disciplinary NYC cultural organizations. For more information, visit