A new, digital public service ad campaign, illustrated by top artists, has launched across New York City, featuring messages about public safety and expressions of gratitude for essential workers still heading into the city each day.
The ads are appearing on select screens in Times Square and on some 1,800 digital LinkNYC kiosks across the five boroughs, as well as on Silvercast billboards in Weehawken, N.J., above the Lincoln Tunnel. All space has been donated.
The campaign was developed by Times Square Arts—the public art program of the Times Square Alliance business improvement district, which frequently projects art on the highly touristed area’s digital billboards—and Poster House, a Manhattan design museum.
It is rolling out in two phases, the first featuring work by 22 graphic designers selected by Print Magazine and the museum, the second featuring work by contemporary artists selected by For Freedoms, a platform for creative civic engagement, and Times Square Arts. The first group of ads will run until the week of May 4; these currently appear multiple times each hour, on a rotating basis.
Jean Cooney, director of Times Square Arts, said that although almost 400,000 pedestrians pass through Times Square daily in normal times, 30,000—including sanitation and health care workers and public safety officers—still do during the pandemic.
She called the new PSAs “an incredible opportunity for artists to communicate the pride and overwhelming gratitude we all feel” for these workers.
She also said “it made sense to use the screens (in Times Square and elsewhere) as a platform to communicate to people on the ground.” Five Times Square screen operators—including American Eagle, Morgan Stanley, NASDAQ, Thomson Reuters and 20 Times Square—are displaying the ads on 24 screens.
“We are living in separate boxes, we are disconnected,” said Paula Scher, a Pentagram graphic designer whose social-distancing ad features turquoise and yellow virus-like forms that float separately on a white screen. “That’s the way it has to be during this period. I can’t say it’s a happy time, but it’s the basis of our survival.”