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Illustrator Angelica Hicks Sets the Scene at Summer at The Rink

By Emmie MurphyMay 29 2024
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Since its Christmas Day opening in 1936, The Rink at Rockefeller Center has been the heartbeat of Manhattan. Across the decades, it has been featured in blockbuster movies, seen famous people from Serena Williams to Truman Capote take a turn on the ice, been the site of tennis courts, hosted fashion shows, and welcomed millions of visitors.

Now, thanks to Summer at the Rink, it's embracing a new identity: New York’s playground. This summer, the iconic Rink space has been transformed into a different sort of destination. Shaded outdoor seating is scattered across the space — free and open to the public — and events will happen all season, from movie nights and silent discos to specially commissioned art installations. Visitors can also dine al fresco at celebrated restaurants NARO and Jupiter.

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For Angelica Hicks, who was commissioned by Rockefeller Center to create the initiative’s visual identity, it was this spirit that she wanted to shine through her work. “I really wanted to bring attention to how much life is going on there,” Hicks tells The Center Magazine. “It’s so dynamic now, and I wanted to capture that.”

With her unique visual language, Hicks has become a sought-after talent. She has collaborated with designers like Tory Burch and Gucci, made illustrations for magazines such as Elle and Vogue, and authored the fashion illustration book Tongue in Chic. She has also built up a cult following on social media platforms thanks to her spot-on recreations of red carpet looks, all made with household items – think toilet paper, tin foil, garbage bags, and more.

For this collaboration, Hicks wanted to bring attention to the many available opportunities to enjoy the space. “Just highlighting the fact that you can be playing corn hole or getting a beer or dancing on Rockefeller Plaza — that’s different. It’s fun and exciting,” she says.

The project includes signage, vignette drawings, and a map of the space. The drawings reference experiences like Top of the Rock, on-campus stores including Hill House Home and Rough Trade, and the many dining options on campus. Instead of a flame, the statue of Prometheus holds a beach ball and a Pride flag. “I thought that detail was very fun and it immediately says summer,” explains Hicks. “For me, Prometheus is Rockefeller Center.”

The map also includes street signs to orient the viewer and fun, quirky details like a croissant holding a wine glass and a sandwich in heels. “I was actually very scared of drawing food,” Hicks says with a laugh. “It's hard to make it look appetizing, especially in my style. I had not considered going near a salad or chicken or pizza before this project.” Hicks also drew the logos for various on-campus restaurants by hand, an element she insisted on. “It’s not a digital line, and I think that’s really nice and translates well to the final map – you can tell someone’s drawn it,” she explains.

Hicks begins her illustrations with pencil sketches. “I don’t go straight in with a pen,” she says. “That would be crazy.” Once she has completed her drawings in black and white, she colors in the various elements using Photoshop. “If I look at someone or something, I can reduce them to lines,” she explains. “I reduce everything to the key components. It’s really just the black outline and not a lot of details. Because I use block colors and a black line, it needs to be a bit simple.”

She credits her recognizable style to a lack of formal training. “I didn’t go to art school, which I think helped,” she explains, “because it means I always have drawn in my own way.” In college, Hicks studied Art History, which, “contrary to what people believe, doesn’t involve any art.”

This is the second time Hicks has collaborated with Rockefeller Center. In 2019, she was selected by the Art Production Fund to participate in a public art presentation for the Art in Focus program. She created a holiday-themed map, temporary tattoos for visitors, and large-scale murals that were displayed throughout indoor and outdoor spaces.

This time, she was tasked with defining a brand-new program. With a blend of wit and vibrancy, Hicks was able to capture the energy of summer in each of her hand-drawn vignettes. “I really wanted to bring attention to how much life is going on there,” she says of The Rink. “To show how much people are enjoying it.” 

Summer at The Rink is free and open to the public through October 1.

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