By Rae Harrison
The majestic banners that grace the buildings of Lincoln Center usually herald the events inside. But, since April, the banners outside the David Koch Theater and the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts are the event themselves.
The words “We Belong Here” are written on a 20’ x 40’ color portrait of a young Asian American or Pacific Islander woman, hanging on the side of the theater, anchoring the installation.
It is the work of a young woman named Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya, who was born and raised in Georgia, with Thai and Indonesian immigrant parents. She came to Columbia University to study neuroscience, but found an alternative way of exploring and expressing what she calls “the unseen” through art.
“When I was little, I dreamed that I’d be able to share my art at Lincoln Center,” she writes on Instagram. “I always thought I’d dance here…When I came to New York for college, I looked forward to seeing the huge banner on the side of the Koch Theater…life has a way of surprising us…”
Phingbodhipakkiya hopes her Lincoln Center banners will “offer my Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) fam a respite from grief, a moment of peace, and a sense of pride and hope amidst the brutal attacks and harassment our community has endured,” she says. “Also, so proud that this work sits in conversation next to a wonderful grassy installation covering the fountain area by my badass AAPI sister (Mimi Lien),” she adds. “Don’t miss it!”
The We Belong Here installation will be on display until July. It grew out of a campaign Phingbodhipakkiya created as the artist-in-residence for the New York City Commission on Human Rights, called “I Still Believe in Our City.” Pieces from that series have been placed in subway stations, bus shelters, and and kiosks throughout the city, near where incidents of anti-Asian hate have occurred.
We Belong Here is part of Lincoln Center’s Restart Stages program. “As New York begins to emerge from this pandemic, Lincoln Center is making 10 outdoor performance and rehearsal spaces available to artists and arts organizations across its campus and the five boroughs,” a press release explained. “Reimagined outdoor performance and civic venues will help kickstart the performing arts sector and contribute to the revival of New York City.”
We Belong Here art can be seen on the side of the David H. Koch Theater, around 63rd Street, facing Columbus Avenue; and on the sides of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, on 65th Street and Amsterdam Avenue.