By accident or design, Creative Time has helped catalyze the transformation of New York City’s built environment. This nonprofit group has sponsored and commissioned public art to energize buildings and streetscapes since 1974. Now it is looking outside the Big Apple. It recently sponsored a video installation along four blocks of the Strip in Las Vegas, and this spring will announce plans for an ambitious project in New Orleans—a city in transition that, like New York in the 1970s, could use a big dose of transformative art.

Photo: Courtesy Creative Time

“Real estate is an important part of the history of the organization,” says president and artistic director Anne Pasternak, adding that developers generally follow in the footsteps of artists. Many of Creative Time’s best remembered projects, she explains, occupied prominent sites now radically transformed by construction: a sandy landfill in lower Manhattan that became the residential enclave of Battery Park City, and Times Square before Disney and other corporations edged out the XXX theaters.

But in addition to energizing public spaces, Creative Time wants to spotlight its past. As part of its 33rd birthday celebrations this month—a self-consciously arbitrary anniversary, Pasternak admits—artists are hanging commemorative plaques in 33 locations around New York that they deem important to the city’s everyday history. Sites include a women’s jail in Greenwich Village that counted Black Panther Angela Davis among its inmates, and Andy Warhol’s Factory.