What it means to me to exhibit art in Times Square

On Flag Day (June 14, 2021), my collaborators and I launched How I Keep Looking Up, a public artwork in Times Square, New York, New York. It’s the result of a social practice project engaging 11 seniors through Encore Community Services via a public artist residency with Times Square Arts. Here is an excerpt from my speech at the launch (you can also watch a video of the launch), explaining what it means to me to exhibit in Times Square.

photo of colorful flags flying on matching flag poles with signage on each base.
Christine Wong Yap with Encore Community ServicesHow I Keep Looking Up, 2021, social practice, flags, flagpoles, signs, dimensions variable. Photo: Mike Vitelli for Times Square Arts. The public artwork is on view in the pedestrian plaza on Broadway between 45th and 46th Streets through August 9, 2021.

In my art practice, I think a lot about psychology, resilience and belonging, and how art is accessible or not accessible. When art is shown in a museum, it is only seen by people who self-select to go into the museum. Some of those people feel that museums are built for people like them, but not everyone feels that way.

It means so much to me that this project is free and ultra-accessible. Anyone can come see it 24/7 for the next 8 weeks. Here, people from all walks of life—from all over New York City, the region, and the world—come to Times Square. Hundreds of people will pass through this installation every hour; thousands and tens of thousands will see it every day.*

Times Square is a public space used by a multitude of publics. People come here to find delight, excitement, wonder, inspiration, connection, and celebration. Everyday New Yorkers work here contributing to arts and culture, hospitality, and ingenuity and spectacle. It’s a place where families and friends come to make memories. For all these reasons, it is the perfect place to show a collaborative artwork featuring 11 New Yorker’s resilience. Coming out of a year of isolation, I’m proud that this artwork and these stories occupy these crossroads where people connect with each other.

*I underestimated this… by a lot. “Nearly 195,000 pedestrians strolled through Times Square on June 13, more than twice the typical number in the bleak winter days when the coronavirus was raging. That’s a long way from the 365,000 who passed through daily before the pandemic, but the totals are edging higher, according to Tom Harris, president of the Times Square Alliance, a nonprofit group that promotes local businesses and the neighborhood.” —By Nelson D. Schwartz, Patrick McGeehan and Nicole Hong, “New York Faces Lasting Economic Toll Even as Pandemic Passes,” NY Times, June 20, 2021.