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Carrying On Into 2021

SoHo Broadway History: 2004 subway art installation still resonates today

Inside the Prince Street subway station, hidden below Broadway’s bustle, lies a frieze etched into the subway tile. Those who are able to break from the intense pace of the city may notice the detailed figures within the walls of the subway station.

Janet Zweig and Edward del Rosario, two Brooklyn-based artists, photographed over two thousand pedestrians around the city, focusing on the objects they carried. An art installation based on these photographs was installed in 2004; it begins at the top of the subway entrance on Broadway and Prince Street and descends into the platform area.

Of the thousands of photographs, Zweig and Rosario selected 194 of the most visually evocative to be embedded into the subway tiles of the Prince Street subway station. The installation strings together the movement of New Yorkers as they carry various objects around the city but accentuates the individualism that each figure evokes. While nearly two decades old, the frieze depicts a very recognizable New York. Pedestrians are seen “carrying everything from a sofa to a cello to the ubiquitous plastic shopping bag; collecting the garbage to walking their dogs”.

Carrying On: Prince Street subway art
photo by Janet Zweig

The title of the frieze, Carrying On, is notably a “triple pun”. Zweig notes that New Yorkers are always carrying objects, often “huge and outlandish.” Developed only a few years after 9/11, the artist is also indicating the strength of New Yorkers and their will to carry on with normalcy. Lastly, New Yorkers are “opinionated and lively” in personality, known to “carry on.” With the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in full force at the start of 2021, the piece remains especially relevant today. New Yorkers can look back on recovery from prior crises and find hope in the city’s ability to carry on despite the hardships faced.

Carrying On: Prince Street subway art
photo by Janet Zweig
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