Creative Time Archive

Date Range: 19732006
Survey Conducted: Thu, 2008-11-13
Creator: Creative Time, Inc.

 Creative Time is a nonprofit arts organization founded in 1973 to support the creation of innovative, site-specific works by professional artists for public presentation in vacant spaces of historical and architectural interest throughout New York City. Its history of commissioning, producing, and presenting adventurous public artworks of all disciplines began in the midst of a significant period in which artists were experimenting with new forms and media that moved their works out of galleries and museums and into the public realm. At this time, New York’s citizens were responding to the City’s deterioration, which was prompted by the fiscal crisis, with the City Beautification movement. Additionally, the federal government, recognizing the significance of art in society, established the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to herald the role of artists and introduce uninitiated audiences to contemporary art.

Their earliest programs invigorated vacant storefronts as well as neglected public spaces such as the Great Hall of the Chamber of Commerce in Lower Manhattan and the arches of the Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage. From 1983 – 2001, Creative Time presented Art in the Anchorage and the imposing and dramatic scale of the Anchorage arches drew thousands to the majestic chambers to view annual exhibitions of emerging creative practices in art, music, theater, and fashion until its closure in 2001 due to national security. Creative Time gained early renown for initiating Art on the Beach on two acres of landfill known as Batter Park City, an area targeted for future residential and commercial development. From 1978 to 1985, this site became a laboratory for artists of all mediums to develop large scale works and often collaborate as interdisciplinary teams bringing together architects, sculptors, performers, musicians. The event relocated to Hunter’s Point Queens for the summers of 1987-1988.

Creative Time’s Citywide program was inaugurated in 1989 and provided a new forum for further investigation of the parameters of public art. Responding to the impact of censorship and the art community’s isolation, Creative Time noticed a need for individual artists to control and initiate the presentation of their work in public places and for the public to have greater access to artists and their process. Creative Time soon spread its programs throughout New York City. Presenting projects on billboards, landmark buildings, buses, deli cups, milk cartons, ATM machines, and the Internet, among numerous other venues, Creative Time broadened the definitions of both art and public space throughout the 1980s and 90s. In particular, Creative Time encouraged artists to address timely issues such as the AIDS pandemic, domestic violence, and racial inequality. It has also remained committed to promoting collaboration within the creative community, frequently partnering with institutions like the Dia Art Foundation, The Kitchen, Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MTA Arts for Transit, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Source: The Fales Library and Special Collections. “Guide to the Creative Time Archive.” Updated April 19, 2018.

Summary: The Creative Time Archive is an extremely diverse collection that comprehensively documents the on-going history of Creative Time, the New York City-based nonprofit arts organization. The collection contains a wealth of materials that document the organization’s commitment to and history of commissioning, producing, and presenting adventurous public artworks of all disciplines. The bulk of the printed manuscript material spans from 1973- 1994 but includes documentation through the present. Additionally, there is much media material, particularly from the 1990s through early 2000s.Materials in the Creative Time Archive reflect the intensely experimental and collaborative environment in which these artworks were created, as well as the ever-developing, ever-changing New York City landscape from the 1970s to the present. In addition, the materials reflect a global perspective in their representation of the shifting nature of artistic relations with the world at large. Given the time-based nature of much of the art that Creative Time was presenting, the organization was thorough in their documentation and includes extensive production and promotional materials that document all aspects of the creation, exhibition, and reception of these commissioned artworks. The collection also includes invaluable financial records that reflect how the organization sustains, promotes, and financially supports its mission.

In terms of materials within the collection pertaining to A/PAs, of particular interest is documentation of the “Memories of New York Chinatown,” the “Fear of Disclosure: Out in Silence and Not a Simple Story,” and “ahistory” projects. The “Memories of New York Chinatown” project was an installation of silk-screened banners artist Tomie Arai created for the Chinatown History Museum’s stairwell in conjunction with its opening in the former P.S. 23 building on June 23, 1991. The project is well documented with a project folder found in Box 3 of Series I: Exhibits and Projects; funding information in Box 8 of Series II: Grants, Development, and Financial Correspondence, Subseries A: NEA Grants; slides found in Series III: Slides; and contact sheets and prints found in Box 18 of Series IV: Photo Materials. Christine Choy directed the films “Out in Silence” and “Not a Simple Story” as part of Creative Time’s Fear of Disclosure video series. Choy profiled Asian Americans living with HIV who were active in AIDS education. She documented a community’s struggle to accept the presence of HIV in their midst, and challenged the silence and denial surrounding HIV/AIDs among Asian/Pacific/Americans. Materials pertaining to this project can be found in Box 5 of Series I and Box 19 of Series IV. The one-minute clip of Bruce and Norman Yonomoto’s “ahistory” (1992) was part of Creative Time’s The 59th Minute: Video Art on the Times Square Astrovision program that played from October 19, 2001 through November 30, 2001. Born and raised in California in the wake of World War II to a family of Japanese descent, Bruce and Norman Yonemoto’s film explores how iconography can inform notions of our national identity, collective memory and history. The theme of the film was particularly resonant in light of the national identity and memory issues Americans faced in the aftermath of September 11th and was shown by Creative Time in an effort to broaden public discussion of the impact of the attacks. A DVD video of the Yonemotos’ project can be found in Series V: Video and Film.

Further materials pertaining to projects numerous APA artists have worked and collaborated on are also present scattered among the different series in the collection. Projects include: Art on the Beach 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 9; Custom and Culture 1 at the U.S. Custom House on Bowling Green; Music in Anchorage 2000; Art in Anchorage 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 9, 13, 14, and 15; Performance in the Park 2 (1987) at the Central Park Bandshell; Art on the Plaza 3: Peace (2004); “3 Artists” (2004), “Conditions of Anonymity” (2005), and “Broken Mirror” (2005)—all part of the 59th Minute program in Time Square; and the 1992, 1993, 1997, 1999, and 2000 projects of the Day With(out) Art program.

Total Size: 56 linear feet
APA-related Size: 11 linear feet
Languages of materials: English
Arrangement: chronological
Location: Fales Library & Special Collections, New York University
Bibliographic Control: finding aid
Finding Aid Link:
Conditions Governing Access: Contact repository for detailed information on conditions governing access.

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