Creative Time

Join us this summer for a community sculpture by Rashid Johnson and an experimental opera for trees by Kamala Sankaram

April 16th, 2021

Today, Creative Time announces forthcoming public projects that anticipate that this summer, after months of isolation and trauma, art in the public realm will play a significant role in helping New Yorkers celebrate their city, reconnect with their communities, and reestablish relationships with the natural world around them. Creative Time sees public art as a catalyst for change and a tool to address political, social, cultural, and environmental issues that have come into sharp focus throughout the pandemic. The organization’s upcoming projects highlight the character, experiences, and challenges of the communities — both human and nonhuman — in which they exist, while tackling issues that impact us all.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has reaffirmed Creative Time’s commitment to presenting issue-driven work and responding to the urgent needs of our time—including community, climate crisis, and inequity. As the city reopens and recovers, the presentation of art in the public realm is more meaningful than ever. It serves to reintroduce elements of experimentation, contemplation, radicality, and joy to everyday public places. Rashid Johnson’s project invites the public to find new ways to gather and explore opportunities around the reclamation of public spaces as the city reemerges, while Kamala Sankaram’s installation invites us to consider both the life cycle of another species and our relationship, and responsibility, to it amidst a climate crisis,” said Justine Ludwig, Creative Time Executive Director.
As Creative Time looks to its 50th anniversary in 2024, with these commissions and the initiation of its Think Tank, the organization continues to approach its projects by opening lines of inquiry that question the bounds of art in the public realm and challenge artists to expand their practice. 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.
“At Creative Time, we see this rich intersection between the creative realm and the lived experience of the communities around us. Our projects with Rashid Johnson and Kamala Sankaram have the ability to explore and bridge disparate disciplines like music, protest, nightlife, wellness, dance, and performance, and science within a public art program,” said Creative Time Deputy Director, Natasha Logan.
“Creative Time’s summer commissions remind us of the urgency of collectivity and collaboration, especially after the hardships of the past year. Rashid Johnson celebrates the creativity of the New York City streets—past and present—by creating the conditions for a public-led participatory stage and by putting out an alarm-red S.O.S. call for artists, makers, and neighbors to reunite in the act of making. In July, Kamala Sankaram reorients our expected notions of publics in presenting a project quite literally for trees, de-prioritizing a human audience and reminding us that our collective survival is necessarily collaborative across species,” said Creative Time Associate Curator, Diya Vij.
Born out of the anxiety from COVID-19, Johnson presents a monumental steel sculpture that functions as a literal and metaphorical platform for artists, makers, and passersby to reclaim space through creativity, performance, and experimentation. The sculpture — a public stage and arena — is intended to serve as an access point for publics to reclaim space through creativity and contestation as the city awakens from the pandemic. The project seeks to foreground processes of collaboration and creative gathering within the landscape of the city’s public spaces. The structure is an emergency call for artists and individuals to ask, What new ways of collaboration and experimentation can form in times of crisis? What becomes possible when makers have open access to improvise, experiment, and play together, free from barriers between artist and stage? Audiences are invited to safely use the sculpture as a soapbox, performance platform, meeting space, protest hub, meditation site, or whatever they feel compelled to make. Throughout the project’s run, an interdisciplinary array of activations will highlight the breadth of creativity found in public spaces, from music, dance, and street theater to workshops and teach-ins.
Sankaram is the second recipient of Creative Time’s Emerging Artist Open Call, a biennial initiative that offers artists the opportunity to create their first major public artwork. Sankaram presents a sound installation featuring an experimental opera composed for and about trees. The installation will feature a soundscape of familiar sounds and vibrational tones that allow the trees to experience the project. Elements of the soundscape will be accessible for human audiences. Calling attention to the climate crisis and environmental degradation, Sankaram’s project aims to foster empathy for the natural world around us and help us to recognize that building interspecies relationships is imperative for our collective survival.
The Think Tank is a program developed in 2020 as a response to the global pandemic and the ongoing protests against inequity and systemic racism. Creative Time has announced a group of boundary-pushing thinkers, makers, and organizers as part of the Think Tank cohort—La Tanya S. Autry, Curator; Caitlin Cherry, Artist; Che Gossett, Writer and Scholar; Kevin Gotkin, Professor and Disability Justice Organizer; Sonia Guiñansaca, Poet and Cultural Organizer; Emily Johnson, Choreographer and Indigenous Rights Organizer; Prerana Reddy, Social Practice Programmer and Cultural Organizer; Namita Gupta Wiggers, Educator, Curator, and Director of Critical Craft Theory; and Hentyle Yapp, Professor and Writer. Meeting regularly to explore new methodologies to dismantle exclusionary and colonialist modes of artistic creation and presentation, the group exemplifies Creative Time’s commitment to providing resources and offering concrete support to practitioners working in the intersection of art and politics from all over the country as they envision a path forward.
As an organization that has produced projects of all scales—such as Kara Walker’s A Subtlety, Paul Chan’s Waiting for Godot in New Orleans, Trevor Paglen’s The Last Pictures, and Jenny Holzer’s Vigil—Creative Time is uniquely positioned to challenge today’s most urgent issues and explore new practices centered around building a better tomorrow.