About the Project

Paul Ramírez Jonas’s Key to the City bestowed the key to New York City—an honor usually reserved for dignitaries and heroes—to esteemed and everyday citizens alike. For this participatory public art project, Ramírez Jonas reinvented the civic ornamental honor as a master key able to unlock more than 20 sites across New York City’s five boroughs and invited the people of the city to exchange keys in small bestowal ceremonies. Upon receiving a key, individuals were then encouraged to explore locations ranging from community gardens to cemeteries, and police stations to museums.


Key to the City sought to ignite the public’s imagination with a complex portrait of New York City that included both the traditional tourist attractions and new places city dwellers might otherwise never visit. The project expanded Ramírez Jonas’s longstanding interest in the key not so much as an object, but a vehicle for exploring social contracts as they pertain to trust, access, and belonging.




Paul Ramírez Jonas

Key to the City

New York City