The People's Bus was formerly used to transport people detained on Rikers Island from 2009 to 2021. It has been transformed - with input from New Yorkers - into a mobile community, with the purpose of engaging people in NYC’s civic life through beauty and joy. This project was conceived by The Civic Engagement Commission's Public Artist in Residence, Yazmany Arboleda and the People’s Fellows is the CEC’s youth leadership program made up of a group of 14-20 year olds who co-led this process of transformation.
ILLUMINATE CITIES was exited to be invited to be part of the design process and architectural transformation of the People’s Bus led by Territorial Empathy, which was inspired by an intersectional engagement process with the People’s Fellows. The intent was to create an adaptive, sustainable, and inclusive space that suspends the disbelief of its former oppressive state.
The People's Bus used the ILLUMINATE CITIES LED map of NYC to draw attention to local inequities exacerbated by the pandemic and as a tool for re-engaging local populations in civic discourse. The digital exhibit and data democratization installation, developed in partnership with Territorial Empathy, expanded on our previous socio-spatial research for ILLUMINATE: COVID-19 combining it with research from Segregation is Killing Us. The work highlighted how past policy, planning and design decisions have continued to marginalize specific communities and individuals, disenfranchising them from the civic sphere and process and increasing their social, economic and health vulnerabilities. The site selection process for the People's Bus Festival and the resulting five borough presentation of the bus to the public was based on data exposing . neighborhoods most affected by COVID-19, which were then prioritized for the festival.
Additional art and visual effects for the bus highlighted concepts of inclusion and the importance of recreating and re-envisioning civic engagement and the public sphere, and those who can actively and meaningfully participate within them, The “Rainbow Chrome” exterior finish is an homage to NYC’s first artist-in-residence, Mierle Ukeles Laderman, who, in 1983, created a mirrored garbage truck titled “The Social Mirror.” The noteworthy beaded mural on the ceiling is a collaboration between Mujeres en Movimiento and local community members, based on the drawings from “We Color Our Future” done by residents during the rank choice voting tour of The People’s Bus. Graffiti, left by those detained on the bus in its previous life, was incorporated into the mural in gold. The women of Mujeres en Movimiento like to say that there are 8.8 million recycled beads, one for each resident of New York City.
“Civic engagement doesn’t have to be inaccessible or uninspiring. The People’s Bus will tap into the transformative power of art to excite and engage New Yorkers, particularly those who have historically been underserved and overlooked. The re-imagination of The Peoples Bus in all its phases will allow the public to participate in moving beyond simply restoring broken spaces to completely transforming the space for a new purpose and life. The origin of the bus as a former corrections vehicle is an undeniable aspect of its story. The participatory process to transform the bus into a space of connection, resilience, and joy, now will become part of its new legacy.”
- Dr. Sarah Sayeed, Chair & Executive Director of the New York City Civic Engagement Commission.
“Participar en este proyecto nos reafirma como personas que pertenecen a un círculo más grande de amor, lucha, progreso, crecimiento y valoración de nuestras capacidades. Mujeres en Movimiento es parte de una gran familia de miembros llegados de todos lados, formamos una red de conocimiento, dedicación y apertura que da forma a esta maravillosa creación. Es pintar nuestros sueños con nuestras manos para mostrarlos al mundo desde nuestra individualidad, que es nuestra comunidad reformada en un ente colectivo digno de ser y pertenecer a este gran país en el que damos lo mejor de nosotros mismos honrando la bendición de crecer y crear día a día un mundo mejor.”
- Mujeres en Movimiento
NYC’s Civic Engagement Commission, PAIR Yazmany Arboleda, Mujeres en Movimiento, Territorial Empathy, Illuminate Cities Project, The People’s Fellows, and NYC residents from Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, The Bronx, and Manhattan.
New York City is one of the global cities most impacted by COVID-19. To date we have lost over 28,000 New Yorkers to the pandemic.
Our pilot project is a light installation that offers a visual interpretation of the virus's effect on the city and serves to examine and expose the ways in which specific communities were hardest hit.
Using a series of light sequences with intermittent moments of darkness, the installation gives the viewer a visual representation of the communities most impacted by Covid-19 in terms of infection and death rates, and then juxtapose this information with racial and economic demographics for those same areas. Specific communities were hit harder than others, suggesting and exposing underlying socio-structural issues. Viewers are left with a dynamic, potent and lasting image of the pandemics impacts on specific neighborhoods. The illuminations are meant to drive awareness and force the viewer to question the underlying structures that are causing such vivid disparities within our city?
This is also a way of making data more accessible to those it discusses and impacts. The installation Illuminates correlation, highlighting potential justice issues as an impetus to focus on their resolution. It’s an invitation to engage in conversations, it is a tool of memorialization and public reification of specific communities and individuals experiences and it is a data access and translation point for those affected.
By using the contrast of darkness (night) and light we aim to ILLUMINATE the intense effect the virus has on New York. To merge our individual experiences and raise a more nuanced understanding of the virus’ total impact on the people of New York City. To encourage dialog and action to address the issues at the heart of the health and social disparities in our city
Our projects are developed with the input and expertise of specialists from various industries. Our Covid-19 and NYC project was a collaboration with:
Lighting Design, Chartered RIBA Architect
Fabrication Specialist and Graphic Design (RYSQ LLC.)