Press Release  August 11, 2020

Hope Wanted: Photos Document New York City Under Quarantine

Kay Hickman

Catherine “Cat” Carnes, a registered nurse from Oklahoma, came to Brooklyn to volunteer after seeing “the news day after day and watching the nurses literally cry out for help in New York City.”

New York, NY – The New-York Historical Society presents Hope Wanted: New York City Under Quarantine, a special free outdoor exhibition documenting the experiences of New Yorkers across the five boroughs during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, on view August 14 – November 29, 2020. Curated by writer Kevin Powell and photographer Kay Hickman, Hope Wanted features more than fifty photographs by Hickman and twelve audio interviews with the photographs’ subjects conducted by Powell, gathered during the team’s intensive two-day odyssey across the city on April 8–9, 2020. The exhibition takes place in New-York Historical’s rear courtyard, located at West 76th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue, providing an open-air environment for visitors to view the exhibition and contemplate the impact of COVID-19 on New York City.

“Our goal with Hope Wanted is to honor and celebrate the strength of New Yorkers,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of New-York Historical. “We hope this exhibition can offer our visitors a moment of solace to reflect on what they and the city as a whole have experienced in recent months and to better understand this moment in time. We look forward to welcoming everyone back to the New-York Historical Society.”

Kay Hickman

Leticia Lu, working from home, sits at her window.

Hickman’s empathetic photographs of people and their neighborhoods across all five boroughs and Powell’s searching interviews capture both the tragedy of the pandemic as well as the remarkable resilience of New Yorkers—like “Mama Tanya” Fields, an activist and urban farmer whose whole family contracted coronavirus, pictured smiling with her six children in the hallway of her Bronx home in one image and wearily wiping away a tear in another. Photographed on their balcony and in the middle of their street in Queens, Mark Zustovich and Melton Sawyer share that “self-care has taken on a new meaning for us in this era of COVID-19. Without our usual daily distractions and in-person relationships, the person you see in the mirror every day becomes your new best—or worst—friend.”

Hickman’s images also capture a unique moment in New York City, when usually bustling sites like Times Square, Grand Central Terminal, the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, and LaGuardia Airport were eerily empty; neighbors cheered and applauded from their windows to thank essential workers; masked pedestrians walked deserted sidewalks; and marquee signs shared messages of support, such as “Keep Ya Head Up -Tupac” at the Apollo Theater in Harlem and “We’re In This Together – Keep Calm, Wash Your Hands & Take Care of Each Other” at the Kings Theater in Brooklyn.

The exhibition also includes a quiet seating area, surrounded by plants and conducive to reflection, where visitors can record their own experiences of the pandemic in an open-sided story booth. These oral histories will be archived by New-York Historical.

“We simply wanted to document what was happening in our beloved New York, to hear people, to see people, to show what was not there, to offer spaces of hope amidst this global pandemic,” said Kevin Powell. “To be able to gather our work into an exhibit with the New-York Historical Society is beyond anything we could have imagined. But then again, it is imaginable, because Kay Hickman and I always saw this work as a healing, as a bringing of New Yorkers together, because we are truly a resilient city.”

Kay Hickman

A closed and empty 125th Street, a street usually packed with people shopping in the many stores along the street.

“I’m honored to be a part of such a historic exhibit featuring more than 50 of my photographs,” said Kay Hickman. “This will be my most important exhibit to date. In documenting the City at the height of the COVID pandemic you see a rare glimpse of grim and deserted streets, but through Kevin Powell’s 12 audio interviews you also get a sense of hope. In viewing this exhibit it is my hope that there is a sense of healing.”

Admission to Hope Wanted is free; access is limited, and face coverings are required for entry, with social distancing enforced through timed-entry tickets and on-site safety measures. Tickets are available online at The exhibition will be open on Thursdays from 11 am – 5 pm for visitors who are age 65+ or immunocompromised, and to the general public on Fridays from 10 am – 8 pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 am – 5 pm. The audio interviews are accessible to visitors through their cell phones, and exhibition text and audio are offered in both English and Spanish.

Kevin Powell is a poet, journalist, public speaker, civil and human rights activist, and the author of 14 books, including his new title, When We Free the World (Apple Books), about the present and future of America, which is exclusively excerpted in the New York Times (“A Letter From Father to Child”). Kay Hickman is a documentary photographer and visual artist. Her passion is highlighting the human experience as it relates to identity, human rights, and health issues. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Time, Vogue, Ms., Vibe, Utne, and MFON Women Photographers of the African Diaspora. Dr. Marilyn Kushner, curator and head, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, is New-York Historical’s curatorial coordinator for the exhibition.

Kay Hickman

A doorman, now an essential worker, stands in front of a building in East Midtown.

Hope Wanted is also part of All in NYC: Public Art Edition, showcasing dozens of free, public art programs across the city, an initiative launched by NYC & Company, the official destination marketing organization and convention and visitors bureau for the five boroughs of New York City. With some artworks already on view and others to be made available over the next year, the five-borough public works of art can be found at, a digital resource which includes an interactive map featuring the locations where the projects can be found, for members of the public to visit as they safely begin to explore the city once again.

The New-York Historical Society plans to reopen indoors on September 11, 2020, and details of the Museum’s indoor reopening protocols and visitor safety measures will be announced soon. Since the New-York Historical Society closed to the public on March 13 to help contain the spread of COVID-19, it has been actively collecting during these unprecedented times through its History Responds initiative, documenting the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests in New York City. For more details on what New-York Historical is currently collecting and how to donate objects, visit

Major support for Hope Wanted is provided by the Ford Foundation. Exhibitions at New-York Historical are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the Seymour Neuman Endowed Fund, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. WNET is the media sponsor.

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