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KUNC is here to keep you up-to-date on the news about COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and answer your questions about Colorado's response to its spread in our state.

Messages Of Hope, Gratitude And Safety Replace Ads In Times Square

Times Square billboard owners have donated ad space to make way for artworks about the pandemic such as the one above by illustrator Maira Kalman. Jean Cooney, director of Times Square Arts, says that in healthier times, many people come to Times Square "because they're seeking something — they feel that if they've come to Times Square then they've seen New York City ... they've seen America."
Times Square billboard owners have donated ad space to make way for artworks about the pandemic such as the one above by illustrator Maira Kalman. Jean Cooney, director of Times Square Arts, says that in healthier times, many people come to Times Square "because they're seeking something — they feel that if they've come to Times Square then they've seen New York City ... they've seen America."

Even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic — with tourists gone, and commuters home — about 30,000 people pass through Times Square each day. A new public art project unveiled Friday wants to give them something to look at — visual messages of hope, gratitude and public safety on Times Square's iconic billboards.

Jean Cooney, director of Times Square Arts, oversees temporary installations of public art in the square's plaza and on its billboards. And she says there are still people going through Times Square and many of them have critical jobs — they are health care workers, law enforcement, grocery and pharmacy workers, and others.

Times Square Arts wanted to say thanks, and it turns out the Poster House museum and Print Magazine had the same idea. So they decided to collaborate, says Poster House museum director Julia Knight.

"New York Loves You" by <a href="https://edelr.com/">Edel Rodriguez</a>
/ Times Square Arts
"New York Loves You" by <a href="https://edelr.com/">Edel Rodriguez</a>

"Together Apart" by <a href="https://www.debbiemillman.com/">Debbie Millman</a>
/ Times Square Arts
"Together Apart" by <a href="https://www.debbiemillman.com/">Debbie Millman</a>

Billboard owners — whose spaces were now depleted of advertisers — "really wanted to contribute their assets to something beneficial to the city," Knight explains.

So they donated their billboard space. The three organizations chose artists and designers to fill them. The list includes Milton Glaser who designed the "I ❤ New York" logo, artist and illustrator Maira Kalman, and Matt Dorfman, who art directs the New York Times Book Review.

For his Times Square piece, Dorfman created bold bumble bee yellow and black stripes that simply repeat the phrase "6 feet is 6 feet."

"6 feet is 6 feet is 6 feet is 6 feet." by<a href="https://www.metalmother.com/"> Matt Dorfman</a>.
/ Times Square Arts
"6 feet is 6 feet is 6 feet is 6 feet." by<a href="https://www.metalmother.com/"> Matt Dorfman</a>.

"With nearly anything else that I'm doing I'm trying to assign fine art values to a piece of design, insofar as that I'd like people to stop, sit and look at it for a little while," Dorfman explains. "This particular kind of poster kind of demands for the opposite reaction. It's something that you should read and absorb and then quickly move past."

Another image in rotation shows health care workers in masks with angel wings below the words "New York Loves You."

Images from the billboard project will also be displayed on nearly 2,000 screens throughout the five boroughs, and just above the entrance to Lincoln Tunnel.

For the project's second phase, the art collective For Freedoms is working with artists around the world to make pieces for the initiative. Hank Willis Thomas is a member of For Freedoms. When Thomas thinks of Times Square he sees New Year's Eve — a kaleidoscope of colors and lights — and the tens of thousands of people in the square thinking about the past and looking forward to what comes next. He says now's the time to give Times Square some of that energy back.

"Right now everyone is at home reflecting on all of our life choices in looking toward an uncertain future," Thomas says. "I think Times Square is this really special container in many of our hearts and minds for a space for joy, reflection and communion. In a way, you can say it needs our energy even when we're not there."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Posters by (from left) <a href="https://www.pentagram.com/about/emily-oberman">Emily Oberman </a>and <a href="https://www.instagram.com/thelastvarner/">Matt Varner,</a> <a href="http://paulsahre.com/"> Paul Sahre,</a><a href="http://www.mattvarner.com/about"></a> <a href="http://www.olabaldych.com/">Ola Baldych,</a> and <a href="http://zz-is.it/">Zipeng Zhu.</a>
/ Times Square Arts
Posters by (from left) <a href="https://www.pentagram.com/about/emily-oberman">Emily Oberman </a>and <a href="https://www.instagram.com/thelastvarner/">Matt Varner,</a> <a href="http://paulsahre.com/"> Paul Sahre,</a><a href="http://www.mattvarner.com/about"></a> <a href="http://www.olabaldych.com/">Ola Baldych,</a> and <a href="http://zz-is.it/">Zipeng Zhu.</a>