This profile is part of a series of interviews chronicling the experiences of researchers who use The New York Public Library's collections for the development of their work.
Art New York is the University of Rochester’s signature work-study program that brings twelve undergraduate students to New York City to live, intern, study, and make art for a semester. The final project for the Field Studio course is to make a zine for the series, “Alternative Guide for New York City Wanderers.” Each zine, reproduced in a series of 12, reflects upon a NYC experience that the students would never have discovered had they visited as tourists.
Read how their visit to the Library impacted their final projects below.
Tell us about your research project.
Yifei Liu: My zine is titled Hearing NYC and it features a roll of black and white photographs of ears that I've captured over the past three months throughout the city. These images are presented in a real film box, reminiscent of old-school photography. While the inspiration for this project came from my supervisor Janine Antoni's "here-ing" art project in Kansas, I wanted to focus on the importance of listening in our daily lives to both people and the environment around us. Sound, one of our significant perceptions, is, however, always ignored by people, which prevents us from better understanding the world and ourselves.
Bonnie Hartman: My zine was like a little video game navigating NYC as a pigeon. There's some general information on the genetics of pigeon phenotypes and cognition as you get to customize and play as your character.
Teri Newman: My zine is supposed to be a timeline of my time here so that I could look back on my Art NY Semester. I wanted to include highlights of each month as well as sketches to give little glimpses of my life in the zine.
Jiawei (Vivian) Wu: My topic was Chinese contemporary art, and my title is The (Un)Officialization of the Chinese Contemporary Art through Domestic Triennials under the influence of Globalization. I am arguing that the Chinese government officializes Chinese contemporary art by forcing Triennials to take place in state-run museums.
Seana Lanias: I created a set of 5 “do not disturb” signs as my research project. Since living in a renovated hotel turned student-housing and having two other roommates living in the same room as me, I found it difficult to vocalize my needs to others. So, I made a series of door cards to express what I was thinking but was too afraid or exhausted to say. I got my inspiration from the selection of zines and artist books from our visit to The New York Public Library. Many of the books on display looked like “traditional” zines and artist books, but there was also an array of books that bent this definition: a deck of cards, envelopes, and even a bottle with a strip of words locked inside. With my own project, I wanted to lean more towards this abstraction of a book.
Dara Rozen: I created a zine using scrapbook paper, stickers, and stamps to create a collage. On each page I also wrote down life lessons I learned while living in NYC. My zine reflected the growth and progress I made this semester.
Renyi Zhang: If NYC Is A Fragrance explores the unique olfactory landscape of New York City. Each page is a journey through different neighborhoods, streets, and landmarks of the city, captured through the lens of scent.
Xiwen (Nancy) Li: I made a semi-pop-up called the “gold fish.” If you flip it open, it’s supposed to stand on its own and create this square space as a fish bowl for the goldfish that I drew inside.
When did you first get the idea for your research project?
Xiwen Nancy Li: Seeing so many pop-up zines with the trip to NYPL, I was really inspired to see how this art form is integrated to tell different stories and serves as a unique way to interact with the audiences. Everyone was saying I should make pop-ups for my research project, and so the medium was decided. I was talking to my friend about how she couldn’t even keep a cactus alive, let alone a pet. So I decided to make this pop-up goldfish as a gift to all the people in my cohort. A pet you can easily keep and hope it can be a companion to whatever future they have.
Yifei Liu: The idea for my research project started when I moved to NYC for the first time. It was a brand new experience for me, coming from Rochester, and I felt overwhelmed by the city's intensity. In particular, I realized how important it was for people to truly hear each other and their environment in such a busy place. This realization inspired me to create a project centered around the theme of listening. As a lover of black and white film photography, I often use film cameras to capture moments I want to preserve in my memory. With this project, I wanted to create a roll of hand-made film that would serve as a capsule for both the ears I photographed and the thoughts they inspired.
Seana Lanias: After visiting The New York Public Library, I took to Pinterest for some light inspiration. I stumbled upon a layout of a “do not disturb” card. When looking at this, I thought about how useful this would be to put on the door when I’m holding my weekly Zoom therapy in the dorm to let my roommates know not to come in. From this idea, I started writing different sayings I wish I could just have a sign for. Then, I settled on 5-6 quotes and started designing the graphics for each card.
Renyi Zhang: I love fragrances and am always sensitive to scents. NYC is a place full of different smells, such as the stinky odors in the subway, the aroma of 99-cent pizza, the musty scent of vintage stores, and more. I find it interesting to interpret my journey in NYC through the lens of smells.
Bonnie Hartman: It was inspired because there are pigeons everywhere in the city and I kept noticing a wide variety of coloration and patterns. I wanted to know about what genes controlled all the different phenotypes.
What’s the most interesting item you saw at NYPL?
Bonnie Hartman: I really loved seeing the different ways artist books manifested once the traditional definition of a book was set aside. The most unique artist book was the one in the wine bottle and it ended up inspiring my final project for class.
Seana Lanias: Although I didn’t get my inspiration from this type of zine shown during our class at The New York Public Library, the most interesting item I saw was the Cartonera. I found the Cartonera to be extremely powerful since the creators were writing about such strong political topics and using household item like cardboard to state their message. I found the pieces to be very inspiring.
Curious about Class Visits to the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building?
As featured in this post, we welcome students and instructors to explore the collections and resources at our landmark 42nd Street building.
We work with educators to design class visits that use the Library's remarkable collections to foster creative inquiry, build critical thinking and information literacy skills, and inspire wonder and excitement around the process of research. Read more about class visits and how to request them here.