NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY OPENS FREE OUTDOOR EXHIBITION
HOPE WANTED: NEW YORK CITY UNDER QUARANTINE
ON AUGUST 14, 2020
Photographs and Interviews Document New Yorkers’ Experiences with COVID-19
Across the Five Boroughs
New York, NY, August 4, 2020–The New-York Historical Society presents Hope Wanted: New York City Under Quarantine, a special free outdoor exhibition documenting the experiences of New Yorkers across the five boroughs during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, on view August 14 – November 29, 2020. Curated by writer Kevin Powell and photographer Kay Hickman, Hope Wanted features more than 50 photographs by Hickman and 12 audio interviews with the photographs’ subjects conducted by Powell, gathered during the team’s intensive two-day odyssey across the city on April 8–9, 2020. The exhibition takes place in New-York Historical’s rear courtyard, located at West 76th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue, providing an open-air environment for visitors to view the exhibition and contemplate the impact of COVID-19 on New York City.
“Our goal with Hope Wanted is to honor and celebrate the strength of New Yorkers,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of New-York Historical. “We hope this exhibition can offer our visitors a moment of solace to reflect on what they and the city as a whole have experienced in recent months and to better understand this moment in time. We look forward to welcoming everyone back to the New-York Historical Society.”
Hickman’s empathetic photographs of people and their neighborhoods across all five boroughs and Powell’s searching interviews capture both the tragedy of the pandemic as well as the remarkable resilience of New Yorkers—like “Mama Tanya” Fields, an activist and urban farmer whose whole family contracted coronavirus, pictured smiling with her six children in the hallway of her Bronx home in one image and wearily wiping away a tear in another. Photographed on their balcony and in the middle of their street in Queens, Mark Zustovich and Melton Sawyer share that “self-care has taken on a new meaning for us in this era of COVID-19. Without our usual daily distractions and in-person relationships, the person you see in the mirror every day becomes your new best—or worst—friend.”
Hickman’s images also capture a unique moment in New York City, when usually bustling sites like Times Square, Grand Central Terminal, the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, and LaGuardia Airport were eerily empty; neighbors cheered and applauded from their windows to thank essential workers; masked pedestrians walked deserted sidewalks; and marquee signs shared messages of support, such as “Keep Ya Head Up -Tupac” at the Apollo Theater in Harlem and “We’re In This Together – Keep Calm, Wash Your Hands & Take Care of Each Other” at the Kings Theater in Brooklyn.
The exhibition also includes a quiet seating area, surrounded by plants and conducive to reflection, where visitors can record their own experiences of the pandemic in an open-sided story booth. These oral histories will be archived by New-York Historical.
“We simply wanted to document what was happening in our beloved New York, to hear people, to see people, to show what was not there, to offer spaces of hope amidst this global pandemic,” said Kevin Powell. “To be able to gather our work into an exhibit with the New-York Historical Society is beyond anything we could have imagined. But then again, it is imaginable, because Kay Hickman and I always saw this work as a healing, as a bringing of New Yorkers together, because we are truly a resilient city.”
“I’m honored to be a part of such a historic exhibit featuring more than 50 of my photographs,” said Kay Hickman. “This will be my most important exhibit to date. In documenting the City at the height of the COVID pandemic you see a rare glimpse of grim and deserted streets, but through Kevin Powell’s 12 audio interviews you also get a sense of hope. In viewing this exhibit it is my hope that there is a sense of healing.”
Admission to Hope Wanted is free; access is limited, and face masks are required for entry, with social distancing enforced through timed-entry tickets and on-site safety measures. Tickets are available online at nyhistory.org/hopewanted. The exhibition is open Fridays from 10 am – 8 pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 am – 5 pm. The audio interviews are accessible to visitors through their cell phones, and exhibition text and audio are offered in both English and Spanish.
Kevin Powell is a poet, journalist, public speaker, civil and human rights activist, and the author of 14 books, including his new title, When We Free the World (Apple Books), about the present and future of America, which is exclusively excerpted in the New York Times (“A Letter From Father to Child”). Kay Hickman is a documentary photographer and visual artist. Her passion is highlighting the human experience as it relates to identity, human rights, and health issues. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Time, Vogue, Ms., Vibe, Utne, and MFON Women Photographers of the African Diaspora. Dr. Marilyn Kushner, curator and head, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, is New-York Historical’s curatorial coordinator for the exhibition.
Hope Wanted is also part of All in NYC: Public Art Edition, showcasing dozens of free, public art programs across the city, an initiative launched by NYC & Company, the official destination marketing organization and convention and visitors bureau for the five boroughs of New York City. With some artworks already on view and others to be made available over the next year, the five-borough public works of art can be found at nycgo.com/publicart, a digital resource which includes an interactive map featuring the locations where the projects can be found, for members of the public to visit as they safely begin to explore the city once again.
The New-York Historical Society plans to reopen indoors on September 11, 2020, and details of the Museum’s indoor reopening protocols and visitor safety measures will be announced soon. Since the New-York Historical Society closed to the public on March 13 to help contain the spread of COVID-19, it has been actively collecting during these unprecedented times through its History Responds initiative, documenting the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests in New York City. For more details on what New-York Historical is currently collecting and how to donate objects, visit nyhistory.org/history-responds.
Major support for Hope Wanted is provided by the Ford Foundation. Birch trees are generously donated by NorthEast Properties. Exhibitions at New-York Historical are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the Seymour Neuman Endowed Fund, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. WNET is the media sponsor.
About New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s preeminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research and presenting history and art exhibitions and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered history of New York City and State and the country, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history. New-York Historical is also home to the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library, one of the oldest, most distinguished libraries in the nation—and one of only 20 in the United States qualified to be a member of the Independent Research Libraries Association—which contains more than three million books, pamphlets, maps, newspapers, manuscripts, prints, photographs, and architectural drawings.
The New-York Historical Society is located at 170 Central Park West at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street), New York, NY 10024. Information: (212) 873-3400. Website: nyhistory.org. Follow the Museum on social media at @nyhistory on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Tumblr.
Image credit: Photos by Kay Hickman.