Above: Monika Bravo, Breathing Wall on a New York City construction site. Photo courtesy of the artist via NYC Department of Cultural Affairs.

The City That Never Sleeps is also constantly growing. Never-ending development, construction, and renovation projects leave New York littered with scaffolding and protective construction structures that, for all their functionality, are utterly boring to look at. But what if all those blank green walls could be repurposed as canvasses for public art, a showcase for NYC’s world class artists?

That’s the vision of City Canvas, the latest program from the New York City of Cultural Affairs, in collaboration with the Department of Buildings and the Office of the Mayor. There are over 300 miles of construction fences and sidewalk sheds across the city, but New York City construction codes currently prohibit anyone from posting on them. City Canvas would allow cultural organizations to install public art on these sites.

“Sidewalk sheds are unattractive, but they keep us safe,” said buildings commissioner Rick D. Chandler, PE, in a statement. “We’re proud to work with our partner agencies on this innovative program. If anyone can bring some love to the sidewalk sheds New Yorkers love to hate, it’s our city’s artists.”

The program is “designed to improve the city’s visual landscape, while giving artists and organizations opportunities to bring their work to public space,” according to the announcement. Selected applicants will be able to commission artists to create designs to be installed at city-owned buildings, sidewalks, and streets throughout the five boroughs.