If a modern Dorothy Gale was finding her way over the rainbow today, she might find herself in Times Square rather than Oz. From June 1-30, visitors to New York City’s Times Square can gaze overhead and view Polar Rainbow, a public art project visible via Augmented Reality brought to the location by Latvian-British artist Kristaps Ancāns and Times Square Arts.
A QR code placed prominently in a light box in Times Square allows visitors to unlock an expansive rainbow covering the sky, even giving participants the chance to create their own digital postcard documenting this powerful, atmospheric digital public art installation. Curated by Corina L. Apostol of Tallinn Art Hall, Polar Rainbow – on view for the duration of Pride Month celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community – presents the power of connection and solidarity.
Inspired in part by the Baltic chain of freedom, a peaceful protest event that directly impacted the artist living in Latvia in 1989 during this peaceful ‘human chain’ protest linking residents in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, Polar Rainbow inspires hope and confidence in the power for change when we join forces.
Times Square Arts Director Jean Cooney reflects on the power of this location for the art installation, noting, “Times Square has long been a space of both protest and celebration for LGBTQIA+ rights, and Kristaps Ancāns’ Polar Rainbow brings a timely and uplifting reminder that the ongoing pursuit of justice and equity requires global unity,” Hidden in plain sight, informed guests to Times Square can access Polar Rainbow via an app of the same name, created by the artist in collaboration with Platvorm, a data visualization studio based in Estonia.
The glowing arc spans over Times Square, which is located directly along the 74W meridian spanning populous cities and thoroughfares across the Americas – including New York City’s 7th Avenue. The artist chose this location for Polar Rainbow, allowing the arc to rise above the towers lining Times Square, in response to the fact that rainbows do not exist at certain geographic locations on Earth: specifically, the North and South Poles. By bringing this monumental digital rainbow to one of New York City’s most populous areas, the artist highlights the visibility of the rainbow, and its role as a powerful symbol in the Queer community.
The Queer community has embraced the rainbow as a symbol for the LGBTQIA+ community for decades. From D.H.Lawrence’s 1915 Queer novel, The Rainbow, through to Judy Garland’s iconic rendition of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz, rainbows have continually served as a stand in for Queer identity. In 2017, in order to center BIPOC voices in the Queer community, black and brown stripes were added to the traditional rainbow symbol featured on Pride flags and clothing. Pride month embraces a range of identities along the spectrum of sexual orientation, and Times Square Arts will feature additional elements in tandem with Polar Rainbow that center voices that elevate Pride.
Happenings during June in Times Square include featuring a Pride-themed Playbill Monoliths at the Broadway Grand Gallery; and a weekend long Pride in Times Square celebration from June 24-26, which will feature performances and panels from Broadway shows (those iconic shows at venues throughout the Broadway theater district) and community organizations; a sing along at the Sing for Hope piano, and a disco themed street party. In addition to Times Square and Broadway as sites of Queer history, don’t miss our guide to LGBTQIA+ sites across the City – featuring iconic landmarks such as the Stonewall Inn – and coverage of Gay Pride month public art projects, such as our feature on the AIDS Memorial Quilt when it toured NYC.
Times Square serves as a crossroads for New Yorkers and visitors around the world to experience the heart of New York City. This bustling metropolitan center serves as a powerful, charged space to highlight public art elevating social equality. By centering the rainbow as a space for hope and connection building, the artist ensures that all visitors encountering Polar Rainbow sense that lingering wonder that rainbows bring to all who experience them.
Next, check out our rundown of 17 Public Art Projects Brand New in NYC June 2022.