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Public art, both the grand and the restrained, has the power to ignite critical conversations about social issues, and can make us look at shared spaces in entirely new ways. One organization that is dedicated to sparking these conversations is Creative Time, a New York-based nonprofit that was formed to support the creation of groundbreaking public works that challenge perception and put pressure on socioeconomic barriers. Since 1973, Creative Time has commissioned ambitious public art projects throughout NYC, across the country, and internationally, inspiring artists to explore the realm of possibilities in site-specific art installations.

According to the organization’s mission statement, “We are committed to presenting important art for our times and engaging broad audiences that transcend geographic, racial, and socioeconomic barriers,” which Creative Time is able to do by focusing on presenting works that promote social progress, spark critical social dialogue, and challenge the way that both artists and audiences perceive public art. The organization’s work is guided by three essential values. The first, quite simply, is that art matters. The second is that artists’ voices are important in shaping society. Lastly, that public spaces are ideal places for creative and free expression. With these things in mind, Creative Time has organized and executed some of the most prolific and impactful public art initiatives, both massive and subtle.

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Suzanne Lacy wraps feminist discourse around the steps of the Brooklyn Museum as part of “Between the Door and the Street.”
Image: brooklynmuseum via Instagram

Creative Time has commissioned projects such as Tribute in Light, the twin beacons of light that illuminated lower Manhattan soon after 9/11, and with creating bus ads that promote HIV testing and awareness, two public works that represent the breadth of projects the organization takes on. Creative Time has created works in Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Coney Island, New Orleans’s Lower 9th Ward, the Brooklyn Bridge, and dozens of other local and international locations.

Earlier this year, the organization’s dedication to creating inspiring personal experiences through art led to a massive collaboration with the Brooklyn Museum and contemporary artist Suzanne Lacy. In Between the Door and the Street, a large-scale, free public performance took place in Brooklyn, in which women and men of all ages sat in small groups on the stoops of Park Place. In these groups, the people discussed social justice topics in relation to contemporary feminist issues, which illustrated the ways that understandings of women’s issues are shaped today. To coincide with this massive gathering, which was punctuated by splashes of yellow scarves that the hundreds of participants were given, Lacy posed a series of social questions in a massive installation on the steps of the Brooklyn Museum. Between the Door and the Street became one of the most important local public art installations of 2013, and serves as a shining example of the kind of works that Creative Time is focused on sharing with the public.

“We are guided by the passionate belief in the power of art to create inspiring personal experiences as well as foster social progress. We privilege artists’ ideas. We get excited about their dreams and respond to them by providing big opportunities to expand their practices and take bold new risks that value process, content, and possibilities,” explains Creative Time. The public works that the organization promotes are incredibly influential on both an artistic and social level; Creative Time proves that public artworks can be a powerful tool for igniting conversations and shaping our perception of the world around us.

Learn more about Creative Time and upcoming projects at the organization’s official website.

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