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Get your own ‘key to the city’ with this artist’s new project

The Brooklyn Paper
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Finally, there’s a key to the city that actually unlocks something.

Unlike those ceremonial souvenirs that the mayor gives to hero airline pilots (go, Sully!) and World Series champions (some Yankees have four of them!), a new art project has taken the spirit of the all-city pass and made something tangible out of it.

For instance, participants in Paul Ramírez Jonas’s “Key to the City” public art happening get a key that unlocks a locker at Gleason’s Gym in DUMBO, a room in the Brooklyn Museum and steel gates, padlocks, PO boxes, and secret doors all over town.

So how does it work? From June 3-27, the special keys — along with a booklet with information on how to get to participating venues, and what to do once you get there — can be picked up and exchanged between friends in an informal ceremony in a take on the time-honored tradition that bestows symbolic keys to do-gooders and dignitaries.

From there, participants can explore the city at their leisure, using the key to unlock gardens usually off limits to the public, or that door at the Brooklyn Museum concealing a secret painting usually not on display at the museum.

Other participating spots in Brooklyn include Cabinet magazine in Boerum Hill, Gleason’s, and the Coney Island branch of the public library.

The project is not so much about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow — the locker at Gleason’s, for instance, will most likely be empty — but the literal and metaphorical act of unlocking a place that is new or familiar to you, as well as the opportunity to honor a friend with his very own “key to the city.”

“The tradition of the key to the city comes from the age of fortified cities, when a key could open the gates of a city like a home,” said Anne Pasternak, president of Creative Time, the arts group behind the project. “This new version is a functional sculpture that opens urban spaces to the public and honors everyday citizens.”

Because not everyone’s Derek Jeter.

“Key to the City,” June 3-27, at various locations. For info, including how to get a key, visit www.creativetime.org.

Updated 5:18 pm, July 9, 2018
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