Times Square Celebrates Valentine’s Day With Immigration-Themed Heart Art

The artwork acknowledges the importance of diversity in New York.

The Office for Creative Research, We Were Strangers Once Too
The Office for Creative Research, We Were Strangers Once Too" in Times Square. Justin Bettman for Times Square Arts.

Times Square Arts has unveiled its latest project, We Were Strangers Once Too. The team responsible for the sculptural work, the Office for Creative Research (OCR), is a group whose past projects include performing the 120,000-object collection database from New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

From February 7 to March 5, visitors to midtown Manhattan can walk around the 33 pink and red columns that make up the work, each segment representing a different nationality of New York’s three million immigrants. The data used to make the piece is based on the findings of the 2015 American Community Survey.

If you face the artwork head on, the poles align, revealing the shape of a heart.

The artwork is the winner of the annual Times Square Valentine Heart Design Competition, determined by Times Square Arts and a number of arts professionals and city officials.

The piece “champions the value of diversity in the city, and specifically the city’s immigrant populations, new and old, at a time when they are increasingly under siege,” according to the project description.

The Office for Creative Research, We Were Strangers Once Too" in Times Square. Justin Bettman for Times Square Arts.

The Office for Creative Research, We Were Strangers Once Too in Times Square. Justin Bettman for Times Square Arts.

“This is the ninth annual Valentine’s heart,” said Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, at the February 7 unveiling. “It’s particularly relevant that this year we are trying to send a message of love, rather than hate, love rather than fear, which seem to be the themes of the day in so many different ways.”

The project couldn’t have come at a more pressing time. On January 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order temporarily barring travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, leading to protests throughout the country. The US Court of Appeals for the 9th circuit is currently reviewing the legality of the executive order, after a Seattle federal judge issued a temporary restraining order halting the ban on February 3.

The Office for Creative Research, We Were Strangers Once Too" in Times Square. Justin Bettman for Times Square Arts.

The Office for Creative Research, We Were Strangers Once Too” in Times Square. Justin Bettman for Times Square Arts.

“Now more than ever New Yorkers need to stand up and say we are proud to live in a city of immigrants,” said the Office for Creative Research in a statement. “We Were Strangers Once Too is our way to acknowledge and say thank you to the diverse communities of NYC for their many contributions historically, currently and into the future.”

We Were Strangers Once Too is on view in Times Square at Father Duffy Square, between 46th and 47th Streets, February 7–March 5, 2017. 


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