Major Projects: Times Square Business Improvement District

In the autumn of 1993, I had just started to work with my agent in New York City, Vicki Morgan, of Morgan Gaynin, Inc. Well, Vicki started our partnership with a bang. She sent out our first joint promotion and soon got a call from Grey Entertainment. Grey was putting together a major marketing campaign for The Times Square Business Improvement District (BID), which was an alliance representing restaurants, theatres, and businesses in Times Square. They were interested in my work. That began a wonderful 10 years of working on exciting projects with talented people like Gretchen Dykstra, Peter Kohlmann, and Christine Krische. I was given the opportunity to contribute my energies to one of the most stimulating and vital places in the world—Times Square. And it also kicked off my fortunate partnership with Vicki Morgan and Gail Gaynin of Morgan Gaynin, Inc.

The First Campaign
Big Art Certificates
Web Page
Times Square Business Improvement District
"Times Square, looking north from 42nd Street." (Click on image for larger.)
Taste of Times Square Guide Books

Broadway on Broadway
Confetti Engineer

The First Campaign

Broadway Times Square ad
"25 million lightbulbs ..."
Coffee Cups
"... 800,000 cups of cappuccino ..."
Letterman Subway Sign
"... and one Dave." David Letterman approved the art and gave his permission for the usage of his image.

The BID set out to transform public perception of Times Square from the Triple XXX vortex of the city to a safe and clean entertainment, business, and restaurant mecca, where businesses and families would want to come. In the end, they were wildly successful. Grey Entertainment conceived of this campaign for the sides of buses, print ads, and subway posters. On buses, tag lines accompanied the illustrations. They read something like: "25 million lightbulbs . . . 800,000 cups of cappuccino . . . and one Dave" TIMES SQUARE.

^ back to top of page


Banner 1, on site Banner 1 Banner 2, on site Banner 1

The "Cleaner, Safer, Brighter" banner shown at upper left was intended to signal the arrival of new lighting, new cleaning crews, and increased security for the Times Square neighborhood. Gretchen Dykstra, then the President of the BID, is shown at the installation of one of the banners. As businesses began to move in to Times Square, it became the NEW Times Square, and the banner at upper right indicated that.

Banner 3, on site Banner 3 Banner 4, on site Banner 4

The NEW Times Square banners hung for several years and got a little worse for the wear, so we created a new NEW Times Square banner, shown above left. Above right, Gretchen Dykstra is shown at the installation of the "Welcome" banners, with the word "Welcome" in the six languages of the United Nations (not as clear cut and easy a task to get translated as one might expect.) These were created to welcome Pope John Paul's visit to New York City.

^ back to top of page

Broadway On Broadway

Broadway on Broadway art The sequel... Broadway on Broadway art.

A Broadway fan waves to Savion Glover. The mid-day confetti melee. The confetti cannons shoot streamers from eight floors above.

Broadway on Broadway is a fabulous annual autumn event in the heart of Times Square. It's held mid-day on a Sunday. The streets are closed to vehicles, a huge stage is set up, 50 - 60 thousand people cram the area, and actors perform their show-stopper tunes from many Broadway musicals. I did promotional art for Broadway on Broadway for two years.

^ back to top of page

Guide Books

Restaurant Guide Entertainment Guide Map
Times Square Restaurant Guide Times Square Entertainment Guide Times Square MAP

For tourists and NYC natives alike, The Times Square Visitors Center at 46th and Broadway (right next to McDonalds) is a terrific resource for maps, guidebooks, museum information, theater tickets, and Times Square souvenirs. The BID commissioned me to do the art for the covers of three comprehensive guidebooks that are given out for free.

^ back to top of page

Big Art

Banner A number of times I had the thrill of seeing my work enlarged to Times Square sized (or is it Texas sized?) scale - on the big jumbo- trons, on the NASDAQ screen, and on the sides of a building. The NEW Times Square banner was super-sized and hung in the front of a building. When I visited NYC, I asked a friend to take my picture below the banner, which says "Design by Karen Blessen". Well, the wording may have aggrandized my role. Friends asked, "Did you design Times Square?" Well, no, but, hey, I did design this particular banner.



Upper right, art that I did for the Times Square website was shown on the giant NASDAQ screen around the time of the New Years Eve celebration. My friends from the Times Square BID are shown standing in the foreground.

^ back to top of page

Taste of Times Square

Taste of Times Square The folks at the Times Square BID knew how to throw a wing ding. TASTE OF TIMES SQUARE is an annual celebration of the huge variety of restaurants available to visitors. It happens every June, and the best Times Square restaurants are there - in booths - selling samples of some of their most popular offerings. Entry to the event is free, and the food is sold for a small ($2 or so) fee. There's music, entertainment for kids, and dancing.

For a number of years. I worked on the print promotional work for TASTE OF TIMES SQUARE. The event was advertised by handing out thousands of flyers, by ads in the New York Times, New York magazine, neighborhood newspapers, and banners all over Times Square.

Taste of Times Square Taste of Times Square Taste of Times Square

Shown above, three different flyers used in various years. (After the first year, we used the same basic design and changed the color palette.)

Taste of Times Square Taste of Times Square Taste of Times Square
[at left] Linda Lang, along with other BID employees, sported TOTS T-shirts. [center] TASTE OF TIMES SQUARE banner in the middle of the square, and [right] from a distance.

^ back to top of page

Times Square Webpage

Times Square Webpage Times Square Webpage

Times Square Webpage Times Square Webpage

Times Square Webpage Times Square Webpage

Times Square WebpageThe art for the web pages continued the color palettes established in the Times Square Guide Books - BRIGHT. What adjectives apply? Happy. Celebratory. Joyful. Optimistic. Kinetic. Busy. Colorful. Eclectic.

^ back to top of page

Diary of a Confetti Engineer

Diary of a Confetti Engineer

Diary of a Confetti Engineer Diary of a Confetti Engineer

What a wild opportunity. Remember the milennium fears? My husband Kelly and I got our will in order and set off to be "Confetti and Airborne Material Engineers" for the humongous wing ding to end all wing dings (except for the Kumbh Mela in India, whch last attracted 70 million pilgrims, compared to the 1 million at the New Years Eve to the milennium in Times Square.)

Turns out I got to be crew chief for a group of eight folks from all walks of life, who'd come together to throw confetti and airborne materials every hour on the hour for 24 hours. As the earth rotated on its axis, year 2000 was welcomed in successive time zones, and we celebrated each and every one.

Note to self: next time wear protective arm guards to reduce bruising from the kick of the confetti cannon.

Oh, yes, and I did art and wrote about the experience for The Dallas Morning News.

To read the whole story of "Diary of a Confetti Engineer," click here.

^ back to top of page

Appreciation Certificates

Certificate Certificate

The officers at the BID gave out certificates of appreciation to the many, many people who made the New Years Eve event possible. For two years I designed the certificates, and also received one.

My work with Times Square - the people and the place - was one of the greatest joys of my career.

^ back to top of page


:: The First Campaign
:: Banners
:: Broadway on Broadway
:: Guide Books
:: Big Art
:: Taste of Times Square
:: Times Square Webpage
:: Diary of a Confetti Engineer
:: Appreciation Certificates



Special Section:
:: Africa
:: One Bullet
:: Faces of a Plague
:: Hyatt Regency Wall Sculptures
:: Today Marks the Beginning
:: Times Square
Public Art:
:: DART - Baylor Station
:: Love Field Sidewalk Proposal
:: Peace One Day
:: Be an Angel
:: Red Cross Blood Museum
:: Dallas Animal Shelter

Contact Karen Blessen :: :: :: :: 214-827-3257 :: Email Webmaster Artist and writer. Cut paper collages, illustrations,
drawings, prints, stories, journal entries, public art, and photographs are
copyright Karen Blessen unless otherwise noted.