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1,800 New York City billboards transformed into COVID-19 public art show

A star-studded team of artists and designers created these posters to celebrate essential workers on the frontlines.

As museum doors remain closed in the wake of coronavirus, leaving the house to see art is impossible, so New York City is bringing art to the people. Today, 1,800 digital billboards around the city will be illuminated with public artwork related to the COVID-19 crisis. These posters, found on Silvercast billboards above Lincoln Tunnel, billboards in Times Square, and LinkNYC kiosks across all five boroughs, promote messages of positivity, solidarity, and gratitude during a difficult and traumatic time.

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Maira Kalman [Photo: Ian Douglas/courtesy Poster House and Times Square Arts]
The public art project is a collaboration between Poster House, Times Square Arts, PRINT, and For Freedoms. Twenty-two prominent artists and designers contributed their work—from Paul Sahre and Matt Dorfman to Maira Kalman and Debbie Millman. The tech-based campaign uses the city’s abundant ad space (all of which was donated to the project) to share messages of solidarity, remind people of best practices, and send thanks to the healthcare workers risking their lives on the frontlines.

Joe Hollier [Image: courtesy Poster House and Times Square Arts]
Ola Baldych’s bold designs use a heavy typeface and colorful graphics to spread public safety awareness about handwashing, mask-wearing, and self-isolating at home. Joe Hollier’s black-and-white posters share helpful measurements revealing just how long six feet is: a fishing pole, a bicycle, two sidewalk blocks.

“With people all over New York banding together to combat this disease and support those on the front lines, it was only natural for New York organizations to partner in that same spirit, bringing together the power of mass communication and public art, then magnifying it with our gratitude,” Poster House Director Julia Knight said in a statement.

Zipeng Zhu [Image: courtesy Poster House and Times Square Arts]

While some of the PSAs are intended to inform the public, others are designed to to send messages of unity and hope. Pablo Delcan’s message to “Call A Loved One” is translated into several languages including Spanish, Italian, and Hindi. And Edel Rodriguez renders masked nurses as angels floating above the New York skyline—a poignant, graphic memorial for the thousands of lives already lost.

Edel Rodriguez [Image: courtesy Poster House and Times Square Arts]
Though everyone, ideally, is staying indoors, the participating organizations hope that the digital advertisements will be seen by the public during brief essential errand runs—or, on social media, of course.

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