Turnout NYC

Through the development of strategic community partnerships and an adaptable design system, this project aims to highlight local talent, make engaging and accessible community spaces, and transform underutilized spaces into vibrant cultural venues.


Design Trust for Public Space

Public Space Design Advisor

J.Ember Design


Alfalfa Studio, LSTN


New York, NY




Andre Whitehead (NeON Photography), SITU


FastCompany 2023 Innovation By Design Finalist

The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly limited practitioners' ability to meaningfully produce and present arts, culture, and heritage and the ability for the public to experience and benefit from artistic expression. This absence has heightened our collective awareness of the arts' critical importance in our community: art drives large sectors of the economy, promotes conversations about identity and culture, and profoundly influences our individual and collective health.

Given this context, SITU and the Design Trust for Public Space—with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation—have developed Turn Out NYC—an initiative to expand access to the arts throughout the five boroughs through a traveling kit-of-parts.

Turnout NYC proposes a new, more distributed model of cultural production, providing more equitable access to programming across the city and showcasing the work of Black, Latinx, Asian, Indigenous, LGBTQ, and other historically marginalized artists. With the guidance of an Advisory Council including Queens Theatre Executive Director Taryn Sacramone, National Black Theater CEO Sade Lythcott, Lucy Sexton of New Yorkers for Culture and Arts, Ted Berger, and other New York-based creatives, the Turnout NYC team has established a series of partnerships throughout the five boroughs with neighborhood-based Cultural Community Partners. In the opening season, those partners include the Brownsville Community Justice Center in Brooklyn, the Point CDC in the Bronx, Alice Austen House in Staten Island, Uptown Grand Central in Manhattan, and the Queensboro Dance Festival in Queens.

Together with these local partners, the team conducted a series of community workshops, site visits, and meetings to better understand the program needs and priorities at each site. Through this collaborative process, a customized the kit of parts was developed that has the potential to become a powerful piece of public infrastructure—empowering artists in the neighborhoods where they are based, strengthening community members’ sense of ownership over their public spaces, and generating long-lasting placemaking impact.

The kit-of-parts is designed to be easily reconfigurable by community members for a wide variety of programs and adaptable to a range of site conditions. The four primary elements include a modular stage, a site marker, a bench and a ramp, all of which have the ability to store within them secondary placemaking components such as folding furniture and signage. When not in use for a Turnout event, the kit is designed to be left outside as plaza furniture and utilized by local community members, contributing to the activation and vibrancy of these public spaces.

Leveraging our in-house production capabilities, we prototyped and refined the design of the modules. With a full-scale mockup, we were able to ensure ease of use for local producers and incorporate community stakeholder feedback. Flexibility, durability, and varying levels of access and control were critically important to the success of the kit.

Turnout NYC launched in the summer of 2022, hosting 150-200 events featuring ~500 artists throughout the season. Events were curated and produced by the Community Partners at each site, with guidance from Turnout NYC's artist advisory council.

Programming information and recaps of select performances at www.turnoutnyc.org.

Following the initial summer season, the kit will continue to be used as a placemaking tool year-round, with the goal of hosting another round of programming in the summer of 2023 and beyond.

Leaving Community Partners with the tools to continue producing into the future, Turnout NYC will have a lasting impact on the cultural landscape of the city, empowering historically under-resourced artists and expanding opportunities to experience arts and culture across the five boroughs. As a pilot for a new model of placemaking through community-based activation of underutilized public spaces, the initiative will serve as a valuable advocacy platform for broader policy changes and programs toward a more vibrant, equitable, and resilient NYC.