We Asked 10 of Our Favorite Artists to Create Love Letters to Their Cities. Here’s What They Came Up With.
Artist: Isaiah Zagar
“I’m in awe every time I walk out in the street,” Philadelphia artist Isaiah Zagar says of “magical” South Street, where he designed and assembled this mosaic mural as an homage to the glittering tiled walkways he adorned himself and now treads daily. “South Street has influenced me as much as I’ve influenced South Street,” he says.
Go behind the scenes with Isaiah Zagar.
For local artist duo KeseyPollock—who create most of their art in coffee shops—conversations over cups of joe are crucial to Seattle’s culture. To create this collage of caffeinated beverages, the team interviewed strangers in coffee shops, including an astrophysics illustrator. “We’re like, ‘Oh wow, when we just saw you drinking your iced coffee, we wouldn’t have known about that.’”
Go behind the scenes with KeseyPollock.
City: New York
Artist: Street Museum of Art
The Street Museum of Art (SMoA) is famous for its guerrilla approach to collaboration, attaching curatorial notes to incredible street art throughout N.Y.C. For SMoA’s three-part contribution to the GOOD Cities Project, several of its top artists—Elle, Rubin, and Skewville—breathed new life into their own iconic works by spray-painting individual love letters to N.Y.C.
Go behind the scenes with Elle, Rubin, and Skewville of SMoA.
“I’m using painting as a way to reach people,” says Gaia, a mixed-media street artist who strives to bear witness to Baltimore’s buried hurts and great passions. Here, a cherry blossom intersects with the city’s ubiquitous bird, the raven. As with the city itself, grit and beauty are inseparable.
Go behind the scenes with Gaia.
Artist: Matthew Hoffman
“The community here is alive and full of possibility,” says Matthew Hoffman of the kinetic city he calls home. Inspired by Chicago’s urban grit and eclectic community of artists and thinkers, Hoffman’s intricately constructed letterforms are held aloft here by neighbors, friends, and colleagues—a testament to the Windy City’s openness and optimism.
Go behind the scenes with Matthew Hoffman.
Artist: Fabian Williams
Fabian Williams sees Atlanta as a boundless city. “There’re really no restrictions. I think that’s what you need for a healthy, robust art community.” Williams’s art has a sense of wry whimsy about it, playing out like a Rube Goldberg contraption with his own political twists.“These machines became… a perfect way to illustrate social schemes.”
Go behind the scenes with Fabian Williams.
City: Los Angeles
Artist: Ernesto Yerena
Ernesto Yerena likes to think of Los Angeles as a “hustle city,” likening its residents to hummingbirds, always on the go. Though his striking artwork references L.A.’s skyline, music, and ocean waves, it’s the bird that resonates most strongly. “The hummingbird represents a hard worker,” he says. “They’re flying so fast.”
Go behind the scenes with Ernesto Yerena.
Artist: Will Bryant
Before Bryant made the move to Portland, he was struck by how many Portland-based designers and creatives he’d connected with via the internet. “I thought to myself, ‘How do all these people live in one place?’ And that maybe I should be there, because they were doing it, and it seemed wonderful.” Bryant’s billboard celebrates the city that accepted him with open arms.
Go behind the scenes with Will Bryant.
City: Washington, D.C.
Artist: Will Sharp
Will Sharp, designer and entrepreneur, describes the District of Columbia as a segmented place: creative and introverted; diverse and segregated; modest and proud. “I’ve always felt like a bridge between different worlds,” he says. Here, Sharp examines the very visible historic boundaries dividing D.C. “D.C. was carved out by our forefathers to be a special place for Americans. A place of beauty, power, diversity, and change.”
Go behind the scenes with Will Sharp.
City: San Francisco
Artist: Ala Ebtekar
Ala Ebtekar frequently explores his dual Persian American identity through his art, implementing traditional mythic imagery like the cosmos, which he feels connect him to both San Francisco and his heritage. Ebtekar believes the Bay Area is a microcosm of the world, with people from all over the globe living and working within its borders.
Go behind the scenes with Ala Ebtekar.
As part of the GOOD Cities Project, our ongoing look at how we make our cities and our cities make us, we teamed up with Ford to commission artists from around the country to create visual love letters to the cities they call home. For the month of November, this artwork has been shared on digital billboards throughout each artist’s city. By celebrating the cities that inspire them, these renowned and emerging artists have explored fundamental ways to lead meaningful urban lives.
We invite you to experience this vibrant artwork—and to take an in-depth look at each artist’s process behind the scenes.
The GOOD Cities Project is a five-month collaboration with Ford, exploring how we make our cities and how our cities make us. As part of the project, GOOD and Ford have commissioned cultural creatives across the country to help illuminate and celebrate the rich and vastly diverse points of view that make up each city's individual character. Each week, we will be exploring attributes that we believe are fundamental to living meaningful urban lives.