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Cambridge artist's winning design unveiled in New York City

Posted by Brock Parker  December 10, 2010 06:43 PM

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(Rachel Richards)

A Cambridge artist who won a public art competition held by New York City is having her design unveiled today on a canvas the size of almost three city blocks in the Big Apple.

“It’s obviously the biggest thing I’ve ever done,” said Jen Magathan, 29, who lives in Cambridge and works at Tank Design Inc. in the city.

Magathan was one of four artists to win the “urbancanvas” design competition held by New York City in an effort to revitalize construction sites throughout the city. The winning designs will replace the blank screens that drape buildings under construction, as well as fences and sheds that protect the public from construction sites.

Today Magathan’s winning design, “My Urban Sky,” is being installed on a 100-foot construction fence and a 100-foot sidewalk shed at the City University of New York - Hunter College School of Social Work in East Harlem.

Her design is a collection of vignettes of different skies that come together to form one large sky, and Magathan said she got the idea while driving through the Midwest and noticing how big and amazing the sky was as she went.

Magathan graduated with a Master’s degree in 2009 from the Rhode Island School of Design, and she said she entered the “Urbancanvas” design competition after hearing about it through ties to her alma mater.

Jennifer Gilbert, a spokeswoman with the New York City Department of Buildings, said more than 700 people registered for the competition and the designs were evaluated based on artistic merit, originality and ability to adapt to various temporary protective structures, sizes, configurations and different locations.

Magathan’s design was selected as one of eight finalists before a public vote picked her design as one of the winning four. In addition to her design going on display, she also won $7,500 funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Property owners can choose one of the four winning designs for their construction sites, and the installation of the artwork is voluntary and will be privately funded, the city said in a press release.

“Keeping New York City’s urban landscape an interesting, attractive place for New Yorkers and visitors has always been a priority for our Administration, and one major way we’ve done it is through public art,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a press release. “Construction sites are a reality of a healthy, growing city, and through the urbancanvas competition, we’ll help make these temporary structures more exciting, attractive and informative.”

Work to install Magathan’s design began at 11 a.m. this morning as part of a public and private partnership between CUNY and the Brodsky Organization, Gilbert said. The installation is being sponsored by CUNY and Mauceri Signs & Awnings.

Magathan said she’s had her art on display before, but nothing on the scale of what is being unveiled in New York.

She plans to visit New York the day after Christmas to get her first peek at the project.
“I really, really want to see it in person,” Magathan said. “It will make it real for me. It all seems too good to be true.”

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