“The Blowing Bowler” is a stop-motion animation by Chris Sickels (Red Nose Studio), for the Fulton Center transit complex in lower Manhattan. “The Blowing Bowler” depicts a brief history of New York City’s subway car designs as a man pursues his wind-tossed bowler hat in a subway station.
Nominating Company: Metropolitan Transportation Authority Arts & Design, New York, New York
Venue: Fulton Center, New York, New York
Project: The Blowing Bowler
Commissioned by MTA Arts & Design, “The Blowing Bowler” is an animated journey through New York City’s subway car history, from the Beach Pneumatic Transit Company (1870s), Interborough Rapid Transit Company (1910s) and subway cars from the 1940s, 1950s, 1970s to the more recent R-188 car from 2013. Sickels was inspired by the subway system and the continuous movement of MTA riders. He created a dioramic model from wood, clay, fabric, wire, cardboard and found objects, then painstakingly filmed each motion as a frame for the animation. In addition to the main minute-long animation, three shorter loops feature comical cat-and-mouse antics in reference to the round-the-clock operations of the New York City Transit system and a ridership that is always on the move. Images from “The Blowing Bowler” were also posted statically in subway cars, with promotional teasers aired at 30 subway stations via MTA’s On the Go Travel Station kiosks.
The digital display network in Fulton Center is composed of 52 screens on various levels throughout the multifaceted public space/transportation hub, ranging from the 55-inch LCD screens that line the passageway on the concourse level to the massive LED walls on the street level, measuring 31.5 feet by 18.9 feet. The technological and aesthetic challenges for the artist to create artwork for each type of display and to make sure the art content was synched seamlessly was daunting, as was the coordination required to introduce art into a retail/transit complex with multiple stakeholders.
Through an arrangement with Westfield Properties, which manages Fulton Center under an agreement with the MTA, with technical support from ANC Sports, the artwork is integrated as unique content that offers a moment of respite from the constant rotation of advertisements. Premiering in December 2015, The Blowing Bowler airs for two minutes at the top of each hour simultaneously on a large-scale 52-channel video installation in the Fulton Center.
Representing MTA’s leap into the future, Fulton Center houses the largest integrated digital signage network as a transportation hub in New York City, with nearly 66,000-square-feet of retail space. MTA Arts & Design’s Digital Art Program celebrates this iconic architecture through commissioning visually stimulating work by a new media artist that engages the space and our customers in a more impactful way. The clean lines of Fulton Center’s soaring contemporary public space are juxtaposed by Sickel’s handmade aesthetic and witty storytelling. This combination elicits a feeling of traveling through time. We hope that the craftsmanship and playfulness of this charming artwork will spark the imagination of our customers, young and old. The Blowing Bowler was named “Best Public Art” in 2016 by Americans for the Arts’ Public Art Network’s (PAN) Year in Review.
MTA Capital Construction
MTA Multimedia Production