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is a light installation that offers a visual interpretation of the dramatic way in which Coronavirus impacted New York City, while also illuminating the ways in which specific communities and individuals were hardest hit by the pandemic.  We’ve  created a public facing light map that allows us to make public data visible, accessible, engaging and beautiful. 

We're installing the piece with partners and collaborators around the city in the hopes of fostering more conversations around who was affected and how we can help! 

Launched in December 2020- your support helps us to bring Art and Information to the city!

In 2021 we’re working to develop workshops and projects with new cities to dive deeper into urban issues in NYC and other global cities.

Here's the FULL STORY:


Illuminate (v): to light up, to clarify or explain, to throw light on a subject or matter.
Illuminate: (project): to make information visible, engaging, accessible and understandable through art.

ILLUMINATE Cities Project
We believe public data should be accessible to the communities it impacts. Art and design provide unique opportunities to address issues of transparency, and create pathways of connection between numbers and actual individual lives and communities.  Visualization creates the opportunity for engagement.

This project evolved from our beliefs that:
·  Public data should be clear and easily digestible
·  Public data becomes personally meaningful when communities can interact with information in an active vs. passive way
·  Art and design can provide all communities with the opportunity to connect to public data about themselves and their neighborhoods; they can be a platform for engagement
·  Information can be beautiful

The idea behind illuminate is to create art that opens conversations.  Our goal is to create a tool, part ‘information is beautiful,’ part educational, 100% public art for engaging new ideas and communication!

Our pilot project is a light installation that offers a visual illustration of the dramatic way in which COVID:19 impacted New York City, while also illuminating the ways in which specific communities and individuals were hardest hit by the pandemic.

New York City is one of the global cities hit hardest by the COVID-19. Our city that never sleeps.  A bustling city full of life and energy.  A city full of light. For months the city was under lockdown and New Yorkers remained quarantined in their homes. The life went out of the city, and symbolically, the light. 

When Covid-19 forced New Yorkers inside, it’s diverse impacts on our neighborhoods were removed from view. By using the contrast of darkness (night) and light we aim to ILLUMINATE the intense and disparate effects the virus has on New York.  To expose the structural issues behind the health disparities- both existing and increased by the virus.  To merge our individual experiences and raise a more nuanced understanding of the virus’ total impact on the people of New York City.

Using a series of light sequences with intermittent moments of darkness, the installation will give a visual representation of the communities most impacted by Covid-19 in terms of infection and death rates, and then juxtapose this information with racial and economic demographics for those same areas. Specific communities were hit harder than others, suggesting and exposing underlying socio-structural issues.

Viewers have a dynamic, potent and lasting image of the pandemic and what neighborhoods it most impacted. The impetus is to cause the viewer to question, what are the underlying structures that would cause such vivid disparities across a city? To drive awareness and also data access.

This is also a way of ‘Lighting our way forward.’  The installation will ILLUMINATE correlation, highlighting potential issues as an impetus to focus on their resolution. It’s an invitation to engage in conversations about the more nuanced reasons for the impact of the crisis. It offers those who encounter it a way to visualize communities that need our support and help.

What You’re Funding!
You’re funding so far has helped us fabricate, construct and install a video-light map of New York City.  The map is a large 6ft by 6ft in the shape of the 5 boroughs designed to display a light sequence of geographic data.  It provides people with a powerful visual image of the impact of Covid-19 had on communities in a way that's easily understandable. 

The Raise!
Our continued goal is to raise $20,000 !!

Our overall budget was $30,000 but with a generous donation from our lighting partners at Hayden Productions, we were able to cut the project by 1/3 (Thanks team!!)

The funds will let us purchase the remaining materials and complete the fabrication and construction of our NYC lightmap.  It will allow us to bring in the video light system and controls system and build our display.  Finally it will support the installation and operation the ILLUMINATE map in various communities across the city.

YOU + Your Support!!
We launched ILLUMINATE into our first site on December 15th and we couldn't be more excited! We’re continuing to move it across the city and to update it with more information. 

We came to our community because we value what were creating and we think you will too! ILLUMINATE is both public art and information access.  Your support will allow us to reach as many local residents and visitors to NYC as possible, allowing them to interact with the installation freely. 

Other ways to help!
1) Visit our instagram! @illuminatecitiesproject and be first to know about new events, discoveries and future plans!  Plus you can keep up with us on the build of the project!

2) Spread the word! Share the campaign and link on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to help us reach more people.  

3) Get your network to donate too!  Crowdfunding is about strength in numbers and like-minded people sharing and supporting ideas! If you believe in us, your friends will to, so encourage them to donate and support better access to information through art!

4) Come see for yourself!  Visit our project as we move to different sites around NYC or connect with us online at


Our Collaborative

This project is collaboration between a team of socially minded urban planners and architects, dedicated to improving cities through art, design and engagement.

- Domingo Abrusci, Certified Architect (Italy), Designer and Project Lead

- Elisa Forlini, Lighting Designer and RIBA Certified Architect

- Alexandra Payne, AMPLIFY, Urban Planner and Project Manager 

- Robyn Squires, RYSQ - Design and Fabrication Specialist

Want the Long-term Vision?!
ILLUMINATE is a project with endless potential for combining urban planning, community information and art.  While the first project will explore Covid-19, the backend of the installation is flexible. Once constructed, the concept can be modified beyond the initial and can be updated to ‘illuminate’ other data and maps as openers for other socio-structural conversations.

The purpose of creating a mobile and transformative piece is twofold.  Initially the goal is for ILLUMINATE to partner with multiple sites across the city, moving the installation on a monthly basis with collaborations across the 5 boroughs after the initial installation.  It allows us to take feedback and evolve the piece as we go – bringing in new data and fostering new conversations.  It gives us the capacity to adapt and engage in different conversations with diverse audiences and sites in the future.

Long-term the goal is to site a broader installation with a more in depth exploration of the existing conditions in communities that were both exacerbated by and further exacerbated the effects of the disease.  ILLUMINATE: COVID-19 will serve as a beta for understanding other urban issues in New York, as well as a prototype for similar fabrications and installations exploring other global cities and their socio-demographic, economic and Covid-19 related issues.  Currently we are considering Rome, Los Angeles, Bogota, and Mexico City where we have potential collaborative partners.


  • Dante Fumo
    • $10 
    • 3 yrs
  • Frieda Payne
    • $100 
    • 3 yrs
  • Anonymous
    • $25 
    • 3 yrs
  • Marilyn Karpoff
    • $100 
    • 3 yrs
  • Anonymous
    • $50 
    • 3 yrs

Fundraising team (4)

Illuminate Cities Collective
Brooklyn, NY
Domingo Abrusci
Team member
Elisa Forlini
Team member
Robyn Squires
Team member

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