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NYC Department of Cultural Affairs & NYC Department of Sanitation


The NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) is seeking four (4) artists to join the Public Artists in Residence (PAIR) program in 2020. Each selected artist will be placed in residence with a different City agency. 

PAIR is based on the premise that artists are creative problem solvers. To that end, DCLA embeds socially engaged artists in New York City municipal agencies to utilize their creative, collaborative art practice to offer innovative solutions to pressing civic challenges. Launched in 2015, the PAIR program takes its name and inspiration from the pioneering work of artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles, the City’s first official artist in residence (1977), with the NYC Department of Sanitation.

Examples of PAIRs to date include Tania Bruguera at the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh at the Commission on Human Rights, Taja Lindley at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, among others. For a full list of PAIRs to date, click here. 

All of the PAIR partnerships – some of which are still ongoing – vary greatly in concept, scope, duration, and populations engaged, and their successes are driven by the openness of the partner agencies and the artist-led, collaborative process that the PAIR program framework provides. Artists who are able to be flexible, adaptable, and can maneuver through different situations and populations are encouraged to apply. 

Residency Structure: Research and Implementation Phases

PAIR residencies begin with a required half-day orientation session, which launches a three-month Research Phase. This phase is a time for the artist and agency to establish mutual trust through shared exposure to each other’s work and process—the artist shadows agency staff and attends meetings, trainings and site visits, and in turn the agency hosts an artist talk and visits the artist at their studio. The Research Phase ends with the artist proposing a project, designed in collaboration with the host agency, to produce during the remaining months of the residency. The project must be collaborative in nature and include one (1) public-facing event or component. Throughout the residency, the artist and agencies have weekly check-ins by phone or in-person to assist in project development. 

Artist Fee and Materials 

PAIR funding per residency is $40,000: $20,000 for the Research Phase and $20,000 for the Implementation Phase. Funding is inclusive of related project expenses (e.g., printing, fabrication, equipment rental, wages for collaborators, video production, etc.). The selected artist(s) are responsible for managing the project budget and submitting invoices. No additional funding is provided. 

DCLA advocates strongly for fair artist wages. Given that PAIR awards are fixed, we strongly encourage individual artists to apply for PAIR, rather than artist collectives that would have to share the award. Collectives are still welcome to apply, knowing the financial restrictions. All funds ($40,000 total) are paid directly to the artist, who manages all program costs. We encourage artists to take a $20,000 artist fee and use $20,000 for the project budget. However, it is up the to the artist’s discretion to use the fee as they see fit. 

Additionally, the artist receives: 

  • A desk at the host agency, with office access based on regular building hours. 
  • Access to materials/supplies at DCLA’s Materials for the Arts.

Artist Agreements and Intellectual Property Rights 

DCLA understands the importance of artists’ intellectual property rights. Prior to the start date of each phase of the program, the selected artists will be required to sign a Public Artist in Residence Agreement (one for the Research Phase and one for the Implementation Phase). These agreements include fixed provisions regarding intellectual property and make the following distinction: artist(s) own and maintain rights over artistic works developed during the program (such as visual art, performances and literary materials) that are not intended to be used by a City agency or program, subject to certain restrictions and the City’s license to use such artistic works; and materials developed specifically for City purposes (such as reports and promotional materials) will be owned by the City. Selected artists are strongly encouraged to review the Agreements as soon as they are received to avoid delays. 

PAIR 2020 

PAIR 2020 will launch four new residencies with the following partner agencies: 

  • The Department of Sanitation 
  • The Commission on Human Rights 
  • The Civic Engagement Commission 
  • The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice 

This is an open call for a Public Artist in Residence for the Department of Sanitation. 

The other open calls can be found here. Artists may apply to multiple open calls, but can only be selected for one position. A separate application must be submitted for each agency. 

About the Department of Sanitation (DSNY)

The Department of Sanitation (DSNY) keeps New York City healthy, safe and clean by collecting, recycling and disposing of waste, cleaning streets and vacant lots, and clearing snow and ice.

DSNY is the world’s largest sanitation department. It collects more than 10,500 tons of residential and institutional garbage and 1,760 tons of recyclables – each day. While efficiently managing solid waste and clearing litter or snow from 6,300 miles of streets, the Department is also a leader in environmentalism — committing to sending zero waste to landfills.

Sanitation work is some of the most dangerous work in the country. In her book Picking Up, DSNY’s anthropologist-in-residence Robin Nagle cites the Bureau of Labor Statistics to note that refuse and recycling collection is about twice as deadly as police work and five times as deadly as firefighting. Now that the City and DSNY are moving forward with reforming the commercial carting industry, one rife with real safety issues, it is an opportune time to highlight the positive example that DSNY sets and show why this reform work is essential to protect all New Yorkers—sanitation workers and civilians alike. Planned reforms include requiring health and safety plans from private carters operating in the City to govern worker safety and prevent civilian fatalities, of which dozens have occurred over the past decade. Carters will also face penalties or contract termination if they cannot demonstrate proper driver certifications and training, legal and environmental compliance, and emergency action plans. See DSNY’s Commercial Waste Zones Plan for more info. 

One of the most critical ways that DSNY engages with the public is in its role as first responders during snow events and blizzards in New York City. The department also educates New Yorkers about their part in waste management, including how to recycle and dispose of hazardous waste properly, though educational programs and community events. 

To learn more about DSNY, visit: www.nyc.gov/sanitation

The Challenge

DSNY seeks to work with an artist-in-residence who will bring dignity, respect, and appreciation to the critical, but often invisible, waste management work. It is an opportunity to for an artist to highlight the real safety risks in the sanitation industry, and to raise public awareness about the dangers of the industry and promote safe practices by workers and drivers alike. For the residency, DSNY encourages site visits to sanitation facilities throughout the City, which may require the need to wear safety equipment, such as hard hats, or may have some accessibility issues, such as the need to use staircases. 

The Call 

Interested artists must submit all of the following application materials: 

1. Framing Question or Area of Inquiry (100 words) 

Based on the background information provided by DSNY what resonates with you, and what framing question or area of inquiry would you hope to address during the residency? (Note: We expect questions and areas of inquiry to evolve during the residency.) 

2. Statement of Interest (250 words) 

How does your previous work and process of collaboration relate to your framing question or area of inquiry? Using examples from your past work, explain how your practice has intersected with DSNY 's constituents and/or areas of focus. What was one challenge that you faced during this work and how did you address it? Please be specific. 

3. Artist Statement (250 words) 

Provide a statement pertaining to the submitted work samples. 

4. Resume or CV. 

Provide a resume or CV, highlighting artistic excellence and any community engagement work, foreign language skills, teaching experience, experience working with multiple stakeholders, and/or any experience related to the specific agency or challenge set forth in this call. 

5. References. Provide the names, phone numbers and emails of two (2) professional references. Please indicate your relationship to each reference. 

6. Work Samples. Provide up to 10 digital images of recent works and/or up to 3 links to video or audio with maximum lengths of 5 minutes. For literary projects, submit samples no longer than 2-3 pages of scripts, poetry, prose or other relevant materials. 

7. Work Sample List. Provide a list of submitted work, including title, date, materials and dimensions, or running times. Include 1-2 sentence descriptions as needed. 

Selection Process and Evaluation Criteria 

Artists responses will be reviewed by a panel of representatives from DCLA, DSNY, and invited professionals with expertise in contemporary art. The panel will review applications for completeness, eligibility, and quality, as well as: 

  • Artistic merit and artistic excellence of the proposed project
  • Clarity of framing question or area of inquiry to address during residency
  • Quality of and relevance of the applicant’s prior work
  • Evidence of experience creating socially engaged art and working collaboratively with communities
  • Evidence of experience working at the intersection of art and politics and/or using art for social or political change 
  • Evidence of experience developing and engaging in a collaborative process with multiple partners with a high level of competency

Finalists will be asked to interview with the panel prior to final selection. 

Applicant Eligibility

The selected artist(s) should be able to demonstrate a level of involvement/connection to the DSNY’s mission and/or the challenge set forth in this call. They should have demonstrated experience with social interventions through artistic practice, and have a desire to work specifically within the framework of municipal systems. In addition:

  • Applications will be accepted from individual artists or artist collectives only (artists cannot apply for or receive funds on behalf of a non-profit organization or a for-profit entity). 
  • Artists can apply directly without a fiscal sponsor. 
  • Artists must be 18 years of age of older and residents of New York City.
  • Artists must be eligible to work in New York City. 
  • Artists may not be currently enrolled in school.


  • Application Deadline: 11:59pm on Sunday, April 26, 2020 
  • Artist Finalist Interviews: Week of May 18 – May 22, 2020 

To take place at the Department of Cultural Affairs, 31 Chambers Street, NY NY, 10007 

  • Artist Selection/Notification: May 27, 2020 
  • Residency Start Date: Wednesday, July 1, 2020 
  • Residency End Date: Wednesday, June 30, 2021 

This open call does not represent any obligation or agreement whatsoever on the part of the City. The City is under no legal obligation to select an artist for the residency, and the City reserves the right to reject any or all applications, amend or withdraw this open call in whole or in part, and negotiate with one or more artist(s). 

If you have questions about the application process or residency structure, please contact us at PAIR@culture.nyc.gov. 

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