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Artwork Thanking Public Service Workers Goes Up at Subway Stations and Queens Museum

Queens Museum, Corona. (Image_ Hai Zhang via Queens Museum)

Sep. 9, 2020 By Michael Dorgan

A new art project paying homage to public service workers has gone up at subway stations across the city and at the Queens Museum in Corona.

The art initiative displays a message of thanks aimed at city staff – particularly sanitation and transit workers – who have kept basic services going through the pandemic.

The message reads: Dear Service Worker, “Thank you for keeping NYC alive!” For —–> forever…

The art has been on display since Tuesday, and can be found on 2,000 digital billboards throughout the MTA subway and rail system. The digital signage is up at locations where many service workers pass each day.

Three large yellow banners containing the message have gone up across the 200-foot-long glass facade of the Queens Museum which faces the Grand Central Parkway.

Thousands of drivers will see the sign daily as they drive along the Parkway, according to the Queens Museum, MTA Arts and Design and Times Square Arts which collaborated on the project.

The “For —–> forever…” component of the message is also running every 15 minutes on the large scale digital billboard at 20 Times Square, which rises 120 feet over the plazas of Times Square.

WTC Cortlandt station. (Marc A. Hermann, MTA New York City Transit)

The artwork was designed by Mierle Laderman Ukeles and is written in the artist’s handwriting.

“For —–> forever…” commemorates the efforts of workers and represents a continuation of Ukeles’ long-standing dedication of honoring the city public service workers through her art.

Ukeles, 80, has been the official, unsalaried artist-in-residence at the DSNY since 1977 and has been highlighting the work of maintenance and sanitation workers throughout her career.

One of her best-known projects is “Touch Sanitation” which captures her shaking hands with all 8,500 DSNY employees in 1979-1980. She thanks each worker for “keeping New York City alive.”

She said that her statement back then – when the city also plunged into a fiscal and sanitation crisis – has become relevant once again.

“The city’s infrastructure service workers are physically out there working every day to make sure our city remains a living entity,” Ukeles said.

The MTA said that the displays will provide those employees who are keeping the city moving with a boost. The agency praised Ukeles for striving to highlight their work to the public.

“With the incredible heroism and tireless work of subway, bus and rail employees, this pointed acknowledgment of their work is relevant and necessary right in the space where they work or commute,” Sandra Bloodworth, Director of MTA Arts and Design said.

Sally Tallant, Queens Museum President and Executive Director, echoed those sentiments and said that the project builds on Ukeles’ retrospective artwork which went up at the museum in 2017.

“This message will flow through the infrastructure of the city as New York recovers,” Tallant said.

Digital art project by artist Mierle Laderman Ukele at the WTC Cortlandt station. (Image: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit)

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