Key to the City: A New Creative Time Project by Paul Ramirez Jonas

Key to the City is a new exhibition - here New Yorkers gather in Times Square to pick up your key

Those New York City public-art wizards at Creative Time have done it again. Ever since the early 1970s, this excellent art collective has been commissioning, curating and creating innovative, interactive projects that use our beautiful city not only as an ideal backdrop, but also as an integral part of the pieces. Creative Time's newest and perhaps most ambitious project to date, Paul Ramirez Jonas's Key to the City, is going on right now, in Times Square and at various locations throughout the five boroughs, and we love pretty much everything about it. 


A Creatie Times participant getting a key and packet about the locations

The core concept here is that everyone–even, and especially, you!–is worthy of New York City's highest honor, a Key to the City, a symbolic award usually reserved for action heroes and visiting dignitaries. In this piece, Jonas is saying all New Yorkers are heroes of the everyday sort–raising children, being of service to others, getting through life with kindness and love–and all visitors to the fair city qualify as dignitaries. Best of all, this key actually works, and can be used to open up secret doors and garden gates and mysterious boxes in locations throughout the city! 

Creative Time's Key to the City is silver with imprint of person handing off a key to another person


To bestow a Key to the City upon a friend or loved one–and to get one bestowed upon you–simply show up at the special ceremonial Commons in the heart of Times Square. There are lots of young Creative Time volunteers to steer you through the process, but the first thing you need to do is get on line. They've been handing out some 2,000 keys a day so far, and you should plan on at least a 30-minute wait to grant and receive yours. While you wait a volunteer will hand you a booklet, in which you declare why you think your partner deserves a Key. It can be any reason–she's a great mother, he's an amazing kisser, she built a cabinet, he saved a kitten… whatever you want–but you will need to fill in something. Then, after receiving your keys at the booth, the two of you head down a red carpet to the ceremony area, where you read your reason aloud to your partner, and officially hand over the key. 

Entrance way surrounded by iron gates where participants can pick up a Key to the City


Next it's time to put the key to use. In your booklet you'll find the 25 locations that can only be unlocked by holders of the key. Among the Key to the City locks we're excited about opening: Alexander Hamilton's tomb at Trinity Church, a normally off-limits pedestrian pathway across the George Washington Bridge, a hidden door next George Washington's portrait at the Brooklyn Museum, and a secret room at the Tortilleria Nixtamal in Queens. 

One of the Key to the City doors to unlock at the Brooklyn Museum next to George Washingtons portrait


Key to the City Details 

You may conduct a key ceremony on weekdays from 2:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m., and weekends from 12:00 noon until 8:00 p.m., from now through June 27. Note that the line closes every day at 6:00 p.m. If you can't bring a partner, the volunteers will find another "single" on line with whom you can exchange bestowals. In most cases the keys will work until September 6. The Key to the City Commons is located in Times Square on the central plaza between 43rd and 44th Street. Participation in all of the above is free. For lots more information about everything, please see the Creative Time website.  

Posted in NYC Events | Tagged