On July 30, participants in the Whitney’s Youth Insights (YI) teen program met artist Gary Simmons at the Whitney’s new building site on the corner of Gansevoort and Washington Streets in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District to install their collaborative public art project, What Are You Waiting For?
Simmons began his collaboration with Youth Insights in spring 2013, when he met with teens in the YI Leaders program to brainstorm ideas for a public art project. The teens’ discussion with Simmons centered around how much time they spend waiting—generally, for a train or a phone call, and more specifically, in their lives as teens—to complete high school, begin college, figure out their careers, and become adults. Knowing that their project would be installed at the new building site, teens also considered their role as members of the larger Whitney community awaiting the future Museum.
Following their discussion with Simmons, teens worked to transform their theme into an artwork. They asked friends and peers to write down answers to the question “What are you waiting for?” on slips of paper, which were then compiled into collages of multifaceted, complex, and often surprising answers. The collages were photographed and printed as large posters.
On the day of the installation, Simmons, Whitney staff, and teens from the Youth Insights Leaders and Summer Intensive programs gathered at the new building site. Installation began with the teens stripping existing posters from the construction fence and mixing wheat paste. Then, with Simmons’s help, they pasted the posters onto the fence.
The final step in the installation process was to add two panels explaining the title context of the project. By the time the teens and Simmons finished, visitors to the nearby High Line and Meatpacking district had already begun to gather around the freshly installed artwork, examining it and asking questions.
The morning’s work ended with pizza and a group picture, and Simmons offered—and tweeted—his thanks for the teens’ collaboration on the project. Teens thanked him in return, and Leaders took a moment to say their goodbyes to Simmons, Whitney staff, and each other, as What Are You Waiting For marked their final project as part of the Youth Insights program. Each Leader is heading off to begin college—one wait, at least, crossed off the list.
What Are You Waiting For is on view 24 hours a day, at the corner of Gansevoort and Washington Streets.
By Correna Cohen, Youth Programs Fellow