Public Art Fund (PAF), Established 1977


The influence for public art has in one way or another been in demand in this city for as long as I can recall. Central Park, for example, has been the home for the Alice in Wonderland statue and Strawberry Fields, the memorial for the late John Lennon. I feel fortunate to have grown up with these landmarks as a playground and to see their effects on other city dwellers today. These places are reminders that visual expression is not limited to oil paints on canvas, but just about anything we can transform.

The area at the southeast corner of Central Park is a reserved space for public exhibits and named for an inspirational woman named Doris Chanin Freeman, whose résumé is extensive, and includes being a Founder and first President of the Public Art Fund. To describe her lifetime achievements very simply: she took her passion for art, combined it with a master’s in social work, and devoted her career to create, fight for, and preserve artists’ spaces, especially in low income areas. She was dedicated to taking this amazing city, whose culture was undeniably different in the 70’s and 80’s, and breathing fresh life into it, challenging people to be present in their surroundings and see everything as a canvas.

We are seeing more commercial murals occupy commuters’ daily routes in areas like Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan. While it is typical for big cities to use high spaces to advertise, a non-profit organization co-founded by Mrs. Freeman with artist Jason Crum, City Walls, chose to highlight street murals from the sides of skyscrapers, bringing attention to people’s need for creativity and investing in artists. City Walls provided public art for the city until late ‘70’s when it combined its board with that of Public Art Fund, creating the platform of moving exhibits as we know it today.

Is there anything in your neighborhood that sticks out or is there anything you’ve never thought of as art until something changed your mind? “What’s the difference between Visual and Performance Arts” (as my friend asked the other day)?


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About Author

Kelly M. Coffey

Kelly's life trek started out in New York City. With a handful of luck, she's been mini globe-trotting, explored new landscapes, met extraordinary people, and has joyously lived in scenic spots like Puerto Rico and Salt Lake City. Her time is spent learning as much as possible about craft beer production, all things food, wine, coffee & tea, writing about personal experiences in fitness, music & travel, photographing some of NYC's infinite street art and interesting spaces, and celebrating life daily. To reach Kelly directly, drop her a line at!

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