rise in the city is a unique art event created to catalyze social enterprises in Africa, featuring an artwork competition, exhibition and auction. The concept began with splitting Manhattan into 100 virtual blocks; leading artists, designers and architects were then invited to create a work of art representing a block of the city. The challenge was to get inspired by Lesotho. One could reference the white, blue and green colors of its national flag, incorporate the traditional blankets or famous Basotho hat, or even re-interpret the traditional Litema patterns that adorn Lesotho’s vernacular buildings. All proceeds from the event go towards the construction of an accommodation block for an orphanage in Lesotho. Additionally, proceeds will fund entrepreneurship training for orphanage staff to promote the development of income-generating activities and reduce aid dependency.
Lawrence Group decided to participate in the event, finding a unique opportunity in rise in the city’s blend of creativity and altruism. Our block was in the heart of New York’s theater district and encompassed Times Square. In response, I created a scene box that represents everyday life in both our assigned block of New York and the town of Lesotho—a piece that represents unity. Its focus is on the people; they are the subject in this show.
In its open configuration, the first three overlapping, etched panels speak of the emblematic people of New York in scenes of their daily lives—commuters on the street, on the subway, and a street musician. When lit up, these panels suggest the milieu of Times Square. The next set of overlapping panels act as the second act, portraying life in Lesotho. The panels reveal a scene involving a child, her mother, and her older brother. These two scenes are separated by distance, languages, customs, norms, beliefs, traditions, routines, etc.
As the scenes come together in the box’s closed configuration, all the differences become less of the focal point. The scenes merge together to form a unified whole represented in the image of a world that we are all a part of, that we are all responsible for, and that we all contribute to—in both positive and negative ways. The image of the world is represented through a mirror finish; as the viewer looks in, he or she sees their own reflection, thus making this anonymous play turn into a personal one. Children are the essence of unity, a universal agreement. No matter where they are from, no matter their race, they represent gentleness, kindness, faithfulness, lovingness, inspiration, optimism, innocence, spiritedness, joyousness, uniqueness, curiosity, generosity, loyalty, forgiveness, inventiveness, and value—they are the best versions of us. Images of children are burned into the wood frame; they are nameless and could easily be from either the orphanages of Lesotho or the streets of New York.
rise in the city took place on October 25th and achieved its donation goal of $75,000.Kevin Le