NEW YORK —
Every Valentine's Day, U.S. businesses reap great profits on all things red, pink and heart-shaped.
But for tourists roaming Times Square in New York City, there's a big red-and-pink heart that costs them nothing — and it's learning opportunity.
On display through March 5, beneath the big-apple-red stadium seating on Broadway and 46th Street, is the winning sculpture of this year's Times Square Valentine Heart, called "We Were Strangers Once Too."
The lesson, according to its artists, is to celebrate diversity by way of public data and visual art.
"After the election, we in the studio … were really upset about the language that was coming out about immigration," said Jer Thorp, founder and principal of the Office for Creative Research, a Brooklyn research group.
Thorp and his team decided their sculpture would focus on immigration, something he said "makes this city great." His team spent six weeks producing a sculpture featuring 33 metal poles, inscribed with data from the 2015 American Community Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau.
As visitors make their way around each section, they view the diverse origins and shifting population patterns of New York City's foreign-born residents. Upon reaching the final observation point, a red-and-pink heart appears on full display.
"It's an interesting manifestation of data, to make data real," said Stephen Jaklitsch, an architect who attended the sculpture's opening ceremony. "To see the relative numbers of people from different countries — and then all of us united in one large heart — I think is an interesting piece."
Thorp, himself an immigrant from Canada, says the structure is meant to serve as an important reminder to all who visit.
"Immigrants are our mothers and our fathers and our grandmothers, and our sons and daughters and our loved ones, and our friends," Thorp said. "There is love at the center of this community."