Places that matter contribute to vital communities, connect us with the past, and make our surroundings distinctive. Since 1998 City Lore and the Municipal Art Society have worked with New Yorkers to discover, interpret, celebrate, and protect places that hold memories, anchor traditions, and help tell the history of our communities and city. This ongoing project is called Place Matters.

The most meaningful places are often the ones that look most ordinary. To find them we freely ask people what places matter and why. Hundreds of New Yorkers have responded to our search. The Census of Places that Matter—our citywide survey—lists over 500 nominated places. We welcome you to nominate a place today, or any day, by using a printed nomination form or going to our website, www.placematters.net.

About the Competition

Places nominated to our Census of Places that Matter are often of modest architectural distinction. They do not always reach out and grab the passerby’s attention, or make their significance known. Place-marking is one way to reveal hidden secrets.

In February 2002, Place Matters issued an open call to architects, artists, and graphic designers to “think outside the plaque” in developing ideas for place-markers. More than 100 design teams responded with innovative place-marker concepts — ranging from large-scale image projections to sidewalk sculpture. A jury of public art specialists and civic leaders selected eight winning entries, based on creative flair, feasibility, ability to engage the public, and sensitivity to community-based histories. Winners then proceeded to transform concepts into designs.

The schematic designs produced by the competition finalists went on view from March 20 – April 30, 2003 in an exhibition called “Marking Places that Matter: New Views on Favorite Places,” at the Urban Center Gallery at 457 Madison Ave.

The exhibit presentations are re-created here. They offer views through time and walls, reflections on networks and patterns of daily life, the power of the spoken word and real-life stories, and the experience of moving through the city as explorer, resident, and tourist.

All the designs use as inspiration places drawn from the Census of Places that Matter. We hope to stir up interest in transforming the designs into temporary and permanent on-site place-markers in communities throughout the City. We welcome your feedback and support.

Winning Teams

Miriam Berman and Melinda Hunt
Richard Deon
Klem/Bogan (Neill Bogan and Tom Klem)
Aaron Krach
Adam Lubinsky and Gary Stoltz
normaldesign – neumann/romines/neumann
Marc Norman and Jonathan Massey, with Tobias P. Frank
David Provan

Competition Jurors

Charlotte Cohen, Director, Percent for Art Program, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs
Dorothy Desir, Director, Community Arts Initiatives, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council
Jenny Dixon, Executive Director, Bronx Museum of the Arts
Andrew Jackson, Executive Director, Langston Hughes Library and Cultural Center, Corona, Queens
Peggy King Jorde, Principal, KING JORDE Cultural Projects Consulting
Robert Lee, Executive Director, Asian American Arts Centre
Gabriela Mirensky, Director of Competitions, American Institute of Graphic Arts
Christopher Neville, architectural historian and public artist
Harriet F. Senie, Director of Museum Studies, Professor of Art History, The City College of New York
Valerie Smith, Director of Exhibitions, Queens Museum of Art.

Place Matters

Laura Hansen, Marci Reaven, Steve Zeitlin, Co-Directors

Exhibit Design

Design Laboratories


Miriam Berman & Melinda Hunt

going your way to places that matter

Our goal is to develop a comprehensive system that is practical, inclusive and informative for identifying places that have architectural, historical, and cultural significance throughout the five New York City Boroughs.

As artists practicing in New York City we find inspiration in the physical and historical shape of our urban spaces. We use the cityscape as form and content in our works. The richness and range of ever changing places is particularly important to our practice. Therefore, we wish to celebrate and to share our experiences of place without making physical alterations to the sites. Instead, we wish to create lasting artifacts marking the importance of places to our communities that will be distributed by an existing system and collected and preserved by individuals.

Our approach bypasses many of the political, economic and legal pitfalls that plague permanent and temporary site works. We feel that bringing the public to an awareness of the multitude of such places is an important first step in defining community and site issues that are the foundation of meaningful public art.

In Europe, limited edition phone cards have been successfully issued and traded as collectable artifacts. In New York City, the MTA has periodically issued special edition MetroCards designed to introduce or familiarize the public with changes in the public transportation system. Using these prototypes, we propose collaborating with the MTA to produce limited edition collectable MetroCards, as well as Subtalk and Bustalk co-operative ads. These three components are designed to compliment and correspond with the placement and timely release of the other two.

“A map of the five boroughs indicating the Place Matters sites will be published to help people find sites. Some might be right around the corner from where they live or work. Other sites may be near friends and family that they visit. This small convenient map folds up to the size of a Metrocard and has a pocket to conveniently hold Place Matters cards for easy reference while exploring a new neighborhood.”


 PlaceMatters/MTA MetroCards would be purchased randomly from MTA vending machines. These cards would be distributed in each of the five boroughs. Each card celebrates a place in that borough containing a simple description and subway/bus information for getting to the site. Collecting all the cards requires the individual to travel to each borough or to trade cards. Subway cars and buses throughout the system would have co-op ads featuring the large maps with site history and information so that people could learn about featured places before visiting them. All sites will be accessible on the Place Matters website.

Public participation currently involves proposing sites on the Place Matters website. We would contact community-based organizations affiliated with each site. Historical information would be updated on the website prior to the release of each card. A timetable for release of each card would be established with the MTA and Place Matters. Our suggestion is for the release of five new cards every one or two months for a total of thirty to sixty places each year for five years. This would cover 150 to 300 sites in all five boroughs.

Melinda Hunt has independently produced innovative works in a range of media including video, photography, installation, public art, performance, theater, and writing since completing her M.F.A. at Yale University in 1985. She is currently directing a film based on her book Hart Island published by Scalo, 1998, in German and English. She has received numerous awards including two from the New York State Council on the Arts, Canada Council and Connecticut Commission on the Arts. E-mail: mhuntstudio@aol.com      URL: www.hartisland.org Miriam Berman received a BFA from Pratt Institute from the department of Advertising Design and Visual Communications. She presently is on the advisory board of the Historic Districts Council. Besides a number of design awards, she is also a recipient of the 23rd Street Association Community Service Award and has exhibited at the Smithsonian. As a graphic designer her clients have included the International Center of Photography, the Museum of the City of New York, the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As a local historian she has done historic research for a number of New York City organizations and institutions, as well as giving slide talks and walking tours of Madison Square. Combining her design interests with historic preservation she researched and designed the official guidebook for the Brooklyn Bridge Centennial Celebration, collaborated on an exhibition for the Centennial Celebrations of the Townsend and St. James Buildings and served as consultant on the exhibit Building On The Flatiron, a Centennial Celebration of the Flatiron Building at the New-York Historical Society. In October 2001, her book, Madison Square: The Park and Its Celebrated Landmarks, which she researched, wrote and designed, was published by Gibbs Smith Publisher. E-mail: mbmadsq10@aol.com

Tom Klem & Nail Bogan

Cbgb: Hard work and hard play on the bowery
Suffrajet live at CBGB, February 2003. Photo Tom Klem.

We wanted to do something sculptural, with solidity and polish to underline the importance of a seemingly ephemeral place. We’ve marked sites connected to lots of serious subjects: democracy, free speech, civil rights. And CBGB is another one, with its own joy and spirit. We were both in the audience in the early days; Tom making pilgrimages from Brooklyn with his friends the Shirts, and Neill from Georgia following the Fans and the B52s. The place is still going strong after 30 years, and going in and seeing Hilly Kristal still tending the front and the kids lined up to play is quite moving. CBGB is as American as Little League, but louder.

Maquette of Klem/Bogan marker for CBGB, three-quarter scale, and exhibition panel. Urban Center Gallery, 2003.


We wanted the viewer to be invited by something surprising (the light-transmitting interior of the disc, with its hyper-real object), within a familiar context (the supporting structure). We wanted people to encounter this within the context of an area-wide or even city-wide marking system composed of numerous markers, all put together in different ways out of the elements found in our maquette. Some would stand on the street on full-size legs; some would emerge from walls on shorter arms; some would have multiple discs. The system would include small outrider markers at major intersections, giving cues to visit nearby site markers.

CBGB founder Hilly Kristal at the opening at the Urban Center Gallery, 2003.

We wanted the viewer to have a comfortable relationship with a piece that’s easy to see and read; but the piece is high enough to meet NYC sidewalk codes and to discourage impulse vandalism. We wanted to build it out of materials that can withstand severe urban street conditions. We wanted each site to have an interactive element; the marker for CBGB has sleeves on the leg to contain the rock-band stickers that cover both the club’s interior and the street outside.

Detail, head of maquette with polycarbon disc that will hold a significant object for each site marked.

Related Links:

We would like to thank Hilly Kristal, Lisa J. Kristal and Irene Ledwith for their guidance and help on this Place Matters project.

Tom Klem and Neill Bogan engage communities to create art works. They connect the memories of individuals, families, and the local landscape to public issues and forces, then find ways for those connections to take shape as works of art. Klem and Bogan spent nine years together in REPOhistory, Inc. creating public art projects in New York and around the U.S. In 1996 they teamed up to carry out an NEA Public Art Residency in Atlanta. In 1998 they worked with residents of Amherst, Va. to create the “What Memories Do We Keep” marker designs as part of Bogan’s “Stage Road: Amherst to Coolwell” arts/dialogue project.

Klem’s work has been seen at the New Museum, Exit Art, and the NYC Art in Transit program, and is in the permanent collections of the Princeton University Museum of Art and the Nassau County Museum of Art. He recently served on the steering committee of Imagine New York, a project of the Municipal Art Society. Bogan’s work has been seen at the Walker Art Center, Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, and at Dance Theater Workshop in New York. In 2001 he was selected along with artists Ping Chong and Lonnie Graham to initiate curator Mary Jane Jacob’s ground-breaking “Evoking Histories” program for the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, for which he remains a consulting writer. In early 2003, he is coordinating content for an issue of the Public Art Review.

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