In partnership with Shared_Studios, Times Square Arts brought the TimesSquare_Portal to the Broadway Plaza between 46th & 47th Street, allowing Times Square visitors to interact with people across thirty locations in twenty countries as though they were in the same room.

Shared_Studios' Portals are gold shipping containers equipped with immersive audio-visual technology. When participants enter one, they come face-to-face, live and full-body, with someone in an identical space somewhere else on earth. Portals exist in diverse locations including technology hubs, refugee camps, art museums, community centers, and public plazas. Locations include Afghanistan, Germany, Honduras, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Mexico, Myanmar, Pakistan, Palestine, Panama, Rwanda, Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States, Vietnam, and Yemen.

Each of the nearly seven weeks of this installation explored a specific theme: Public Space, Food, Migration, Performance, Identity, Change, and Gratitude. In addition to hosting dialogues between individuals, the TimesSquare_Portal hosted special conversations, meals, musical performances, and more.

Week One: Public Space

Democratic citizenship requires public spaces in which people feel safe and connected to one another. These spaces require protection from privatization, commercialization, and intimidation. Week One connected participants at theTimesSquare_Portal to others around the world to consider the challenges facing public spaces and the public sphere.

Week Two: Food

Coinciding with International Food Day and International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, Week Two of theTimesSquare_Portal focused on food. Programmed events included Shared_Meals that connected participants in theTimesSquare_Portal to strangers in distant Portals, eating together at a shared table. The food-themed events also focused on issues of hunger in America and around the world.

Week Three: Migration

Week Three in the TimesSquare_Portal focused on migration. This week featured one-on-one dialogues and Shared_Meals with refugees and internally displaced persons in Iraq, Gaza, Yemen, Rwanda, Germany, and Yangon. It also involved two days focused on migration across America’s southern border and the fate of “Dreamers” in America. As this week also marked the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, programmed activities incorporated the stories of people across America and the world who have lost their homes to natural disaster.

Week Four: Performance

Week Four of the TimesSquare_Portal celebrated live entertainment, connecting performers in Times Square to other Portals around the world in real-time collaborations, performances, and discussions of their craft. Halloween at theTimesSquare_Portal also gave Times Square visitors an opportunity to hear ghost stories from Mexico to Myanmar.

Week Five: Identity

Discussions and curated events over the course of Week Five focused on race, gender, political affiliation, sex, and religion. What does gender mean today, from the U.S. to Afghanistan? As this was election week, the TimesSquare_Portal connected to Portals across America to encourage intimate dialogues between participants of different political stripes. We also heard about how the world sees America in the age of Trump, and featured an event with members of the LGBTQ+ community around the globe.

Week Six: Change

From the heart of the iconic location where Americans welcome fresh starts and change each New Year, theTimesSquare_Portal featured dialogues and programmed events exploring change in many forms, from the global and universal to the personal and political. Dialogues and events explored issues ranging from climate change and criminal justice reform to aging and falling in and out of love. During one featured event during Week Six, formerly incarcerated Americans from across the country shared their stories of prison and reentry into society.

Week Seven: Gratitude

The TimesSquare_Portal activation concluded during the week of Thanksgiving with a series of Shared_Thanksgiving meals connecting the TimesSquare_Portal to other Portals throughout the U.S.

Photographs courtesy of Ian Douglas for Times Square Arts.