‘Illuminating’ the Bowery with COVID-19 Stats

Posted on: February 3rd, 2021 at 5:15 am by

Courtesy of Alex Contell

Looks like quarantine has been keeping the art community, ahem, enlightened and we love to see it. Allow me to introduce the Illuminate Cities Project Collective:

  • Alexandra Payne: Project Manager, Urban Planner and Policy Specialist (Amplify)
  • Domingo Abrusci: Project Lead, Designer and Architect (licensed in Italy)
  • Elisa Forlini: Lighting Design, Chartered RIBA Architect
  • Robyn Squires: Fabrication Specialist and Graphic Design (RYSQ LLC)

Their pilot project, “Illuminate: COVID-19,” is an LED display at 250 Bowery, across from the New Museum, and it is, well,  illuminating. Alexandra wanted to stress that this is truly an art piece for the public. More so during pandemic times, when the city and its valuable social connections have been tested. Illuminate Cities strives to find a way to talk about that through art. Thus, the birth of this light installation on the Bowery that offers a visual translation of the dramatic way in which the coronavirus affects New York City.

An excerpt from their Press Release:

New York is among the cities hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic globally. Illuminate Cities Project, a group of NY based planners and architects, focused their pilot project on exploring the way that existing structural issues influenced and exacerbated the pandemic’s effects on the city. The goal was to create a translation of public data into visually accessible information which was understandable, interesting and compelling to the public.

Literally and figuratively, the Illuminate: COVID-19 installation brings light to data showing that specific communities across the 5 boroughs have been more gravely impacted by the pandemic than others. The installation uses light intensity and color saturation to form a sequence of data maps, first illustrating the neighborhoods most affected by COVID-19 in terms of infection and death rates, then juxtaposing them with the racial and economic demographics of the same areas.

Data for the project was compiled from NYC DOHMH, the US Census Bureau and the American Communities Survey with the goal of taking information readily available to the public but usually accessed by planning and policy experts and returning it to the public realm in a more easily digestible form.  The installation is further meant as an impetus for viewers to get involved and offer help where they can.

“Illuminate: COVID – 19” is currently on view through March 1.  The light sequence operates from 11am to 2am projecting death rate, illness rate, poverty rate and more. Maybe macabre, but necessary.

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