News and Press Releases

For Immediate Release: February 27, 2020

Contact:, 212-513-9323


Artists can apply to embed within one of four participating agencies: Civic Engagement Commission, Department of Sanitation, Commission on Human Rights, and Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

Applications are due March 29, 2020 via

New York – The NYC Department of Cultural Affairs has announced an open call for the next round of its Public Artists in Residence (PAIR) program, which places artists-in-residence with New York City municipal agencies to address pressing civic and social challenges through creative practice. Artists and artist collectives are encouraged to apply to work with one of four agencies participating in the 2020 PAIR program: the NYC Civic Engagement Commission, the NYC Department of Sanitation, the NYC Commission on Human Rights, and the NYC Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. Applications are due March 29, 2020, and selections will be announced later this spring.

“Our city owes so much of its extraordinary energy to the artists who live and work here, and the Public Artists in Residence program gives us a way to tap into this pool of talent and re-think our approach to public service,” said Acting Commissioner of Cultural Affairs Kathleen Hughes. “So artists: we encourage you to take a close look at these unique opportunities to embed within a City agency. Applying your creativity and collaborative spirit to one of these four agencies would bring a fresh and valued approach to addressing serious civic challenges.”

The four agencies, selected through a competitive application, are seeking to address a range of issues at the core of their public service missions:

  • The NYC Civic Engagement Commission seeks an artist to support its efforts in generating nonconventional ways to empower the public to be heard and connect their own voices and needs to meaningful participation. The selected artist will have the opportunity to energize local communities by identifying themes that deeply resonate and inspire residents to make desired changes at a local level, empower leadership, and reach out and pull in traditionally underserved communities.
  • The New York City Commission on Human Rights envisions organizing its new PAIR residency around the concept of family, broadly defined. The agency is interested in developing a collaborative project with an artist that examines intergenerational family relationships, the families that New Yorkers build in addition to traditional family structures or connections that New Yorkers have created where traditional familial bonds may no longer exist.
  • The NYC Department of Sanitation (DSNY) seeks to work with an artist who will bring dignity, respect, and appreciation to the critical, but often invisible, waste management work. It is an opportunity to for an artist to highlight the real safety risks in the sanitation industry, and to raise public awareness about the dangers of the industry and promote safe practices by workers and drivers alike. With artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles, DSNY pioneered the model of municipal artist residencies that inspired the present PAIR program.
  • The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice seeks an artist who can help lead their efforts to reframe justice and engage the imaginations of community members in individual healing, community restoration, and systemic transformation. This residency will be centered on storytelling and, working with MOCJ’s Office of Neighborhood Safety, will take a neighborhood-based approach, elevating the voices of community members who have been impacted by historic disinvestment. Specifically, MOCJ will work with the artist in the Mott Haven community to help heal historic trauma in a neighborhood that has experienced violence, but also where MOCJ has longstanding partnerships and investments. Bronx-based artists, and artists connected to Mott Haven, are especially encouraged to apply for this residency.

“Mierle Ukeles’s work has left an extraordinarily impact on our agency and has changed the way that the public views our workforce,” said DSNY Commissioner Kathryn Garcia. “We are excited to welcome the next generation of artists-in-residence, to continue in this tradition of shining a light on the great work of the men and women of our department.”

"Connecting the imagination of talented artists with neighborhood residents can catalyze the reshaping of spaces so communities can realize safety on their own terms," said MOCJ Director Elizabeth Glazer. "MOCJ’s Office of Neighborhood Safety is excited to support and work with the talent and vision that the Public Artists in Residence program attracts."

“The New York City Commission on Human Rights’ prior work with the PAIR program affirmed that art is a powerful tool for raising awareness about human rights and promoting dialogue that leads to change,” said Carmelyn P. Malalis, Chair and Commissioner of the New York City Commission on Human Rights. “The Commission on Human Rights hosted a PAIR artist in 2018 and the results were nothing short of stunning. Artist and author Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s murals calling out street harassment, racism, and gender discrimination garnered overwhelmingly positive reactions across the city. We look forward to another year of working with PAIR to use the universal language of art to continue the human rights conversation.”

“Art has the unique ability to transform how people connect to government and think about civic engagement,” said Dr. Sarah Sayeed, Chair and Executive Director of the NYC Civic Engagement Commission. “In a city as diverse as ours, it is important to engage New Yorkers across language, age, and cultural backgrounds and ignite meaningful dialogue around what it means to strengthen democracy for everyone in our city. We are excited to be a part of DCLA’s PAIR Program and use art to build civic trust across the city.”

Launched in 2015, the PAIR program takes its name and inspiration from the pioneering work of artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles, the City’s first official artist in residence (1977), with the NYC Department of Sanitation. The CreateNYC cultural plan, released in 2017, further embraced PAIR as a strategy for increasing the presence of art in New York’s public realm.

Examples of PAIRs to date include Tania Bruguera, who collaborated with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs to build trust with immigrant communities; Theater of War Productions and Bryan Doerries, who worked with the Department of Veterans Services to foster dialogue among veterans and communities traumatized by violence through Greek drama; and Rachel Barnard, who worked with the Department of Probation to strengthen relationships between probation officers and the people under their supervision. Announced in 2019, the most recent cohort of PAIRs includes four artists who will continue to work in their respective agencies through spring 2020. View a full list of PAIRs to date.

About NYC Department of Cultural Affairs

The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) is dedicated to supporting and strengthening New York City’s vibrant cultural life. DCLA works to promote and advocate for quality arts programming and to articulate the contribution made by the cultural community to the City’s vitality. The Department represents and serves non-profit cultural organizations involved in the visual, literary, and performing arts; public-oriented science and humanities institutions including zoos, botanical gardens, and historic and preservation societies; and creative artists at all skill levels who live and work within the City’s five boroughs. DCLA also provides donated materials for arts programs offered by the public schools and cultural and social service groups, and commissions permanent works of public art at City-funded construction projects throughout the five boroughs. For more information, visit