Photo: NYC Parks / Daniel Avila
40+ dynamic photographs by late artist Katrina Thomas on view June 24–September 2, 2022
NYC Parks is pleased to announce the opening of “Streets In Play: Katrina Thomas, NYC Summer 1968,” a new photography exhibition on view this summer at its Arsenal Gallery, Central Park. Curated from the NYC Parks photo archive collection, the show features more than 40 dynamic photographs by the late artist Katrina Thomas, who documented “carless streets” and children engaged in inventive and self-directed forms of summer play in 1968.
Katrina Thomas was hired to photograph Mayor Lindsay’s 1968 task force initiatives, including “Playstreets” or residential blocks closed to traffic and equipped with recreational and cultural activities. Her images were commissioned to use for publicity, fundraising appeals, and official reports, and intended to offer visual proof that the city was compensating for a lack of investment in low-income, racially segregated neighborhoods.
Thomas’ exceptional eye transcended the task. Her captivating, impromptu images provide a rare perspective on a distressed urban landscape, highlighting a child’s-eye view of the possibilities for play and delight in less-than-hospitable environments. Many better-known photographers set their sights on city streets in this period, documenting their social life or physical conditions. While Thomas’ images invite comparison, they resist neat categorization. Her viewpoint throughout is on the life actually lived in public spaces. The 1968 images also speak to present-day questions of whom and what purposes city streets might serve.
Katrina Thomas (1927-2018) had a highly varied photography career, from a steady business in commercial children’s portraiture to municipal contracts, photojournalism assignments, and self-directed ethnographic projects. Decades after the 1968 Task Force project, Thomas donated the collection to NYC Parks. The never-before exhibited photographs represent one of the most complicated yet revealing collections of imagery in the Photo Archives—shaped by the tension between the demands of a commissioned project and Thomas’ personal perspective.
“Streets in Play” is curated by Rebekah Burgess, NYC Parks Photo Archivist, and Mariana Mogilevich, historian of architecture and urbanism and Editor in Chief, Urban Omnibus. NYC Parks will host a curators talk at the gallery on July 13, 2022 at 6 p.m. The event is free but registration is required – RSVP by emailing email@example.com.
NYC Parks’ Arsenal Gallery is dedicated to examining themes of nature, urban space, wildlife, New York City parks and park history. It is located on the third floor of Parks’ headquarters in Central Park on Fifth Avenue at 64th Street. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and admission is free. For more information on the Arsenal Gallery, visit nyc.gov/parks/art.