NYCxDESIGN is driven by core values deeply rooted in community and creativity, always mindful of inclusivity, equality, diversity, sustainability, and regenerative design for the greater good of humanity.

Beyond its annual Festival, NYCxDESIGN’s year-round programming serves as a robust platform for the diverse spectrum of design talent found in New York City. 

Whether showcasing students, emerging designers, or highly decorated professionals across various design disciplines, our programs foster an environment for sharing, educating, learning, and uniting. The overarching aim is to address the pressing needs of our world with attention and care, inspiring the next generation to embrace design as a tool for solving problems and contributing positively to tomorrow’s challenges.

I Was Here

I Was Here
A digital presentation
Conceptualized by Marjorie Guyon, with video and animation co-created by Marc Aptakin, Roy Husdell, and Yoel Meneses of MadLabs.
Hosted by SpireWorks on The Podium at One World Trade Center
October 2023
For Design Pavilion, I Was Here combines art and design to depict the significance of memory, history, and ancestry and how all three come together to begin the process of healing ‘wounded’ sites by the legacy of enslavement around the United States.
Animated images of the Ancestor Spirit Portraits debuted in New York City on all four sides of the World Trade Center’s Podium, rising 200 feet above the ground. This site, so deeply significant to our recent American experience, also overlooks New York Harbor and the intersection of Wall Street and the East River, the second largest auction site for enslaved Africans in the country.
NYCxDESIGN is honored to present I Was Here as a Design Pavilion project and to roll out the breadth and depth of its meaning over the next year in NYC through projections, digital experience, Augmented Reality, monumental Spirit Portraits, soundscape, poetic narratives, and dance, as we build out an experience to honor and commemorate those whose names we will never know and, in so doing, acknowledge the wound in our citizenship that enslavement created.
Partnered with creators Marc Aptakin and Roy Husdell at MadLabs, and Mark Domino of Spireworks, Design Pavilion creates this introduction to NYC as a subtle Dreamtime experience.
This is the first in a series of historic story-telling through art and design. This inauguration of the project in Lower Manhattan will be a silent testament to honor the power, beauty, dignity and grace of those who were instrumental in building the foundation of our country.
NYCxDESIGN believes it is vital to understand our past, in order to shape our future.
An NYCxDESIGN Mic podcast, hosted by Debbie Millman in conversation with artists Marjorie Guyon and Roy Husdell, is available on-demand here.​
Project Credits
Conceptual Artist
Marjorie Guyon
Marc Aptakin, Chief Executive Officer, MadLabs
Roy Husdell, Chief Creative Officer, MadLabs
Ancestor Spirit Models
Barry Darnell Burton, Cameron Moody, Ashton Moody, Marshall Fields, Nana Bamfo, Isabella Parks, Marsha Fields, Iris Fields, Charles Sweat, Jaylen Edmonds
Project Management
Johnny Martinez
Community Outreach
Briana Persley
Faith Healer
Barry Darnell Burton
VisitLex and Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage
Mary Quinn Ramer and Ouita Michel
Toni Sikes
Administrative Volunteer
Syndy Deese
Community Liaison
Marshall Fields
Patrick Mitchell
I Was Here
The I Was Here project began in 2016 in Lexington KY, home to the largest auction site of the enslaved west of the Allegheny Mountain. A set of iconic Ancestor Spirit Portraits was created by photographing contemporary African Americans to stand in the gap as representative Ancestors. The portraits  form connected, intangible images that convey the transitional dignity of the African to African American individual and family – imagery mostly missing in America’s visual history. 
Through photography, tapestry, projection, print, digital and unbounded possibilities of exhibition, ‘Ancestor Spirit Portraits’ have been integrated into key historic sites across America.
The “here” of I Was Here begins with an honest look at the history of place. The project creates a visual for an invisible history, asking us to examine who we are to each other, who we are as a nation and how we can work to repair the wound in our citizenship created by enslavement. The project draws attention to the untold stories of historic sites by using visual markers to create a monument honoring the humanity, dignity, power and grace of a People.
The installations create a transformational force in public space to acknowledge and heal a broken citizenship.  
I Was Here project is a 501c3 not for profit organization.